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Some Ways to Poly

Last week I said I would blog this week about some of the different configurations of polyamory. This is far from being an exhaustive list, but I’ve encountered a number of people who believe there’s only one way to do polyamory, and that’s definitely not the case.

Red hearts in 3D

The configuration most people seem familiar with is a triad. This is a relationship in which three people are all involved with each other, and often, at least as most often portrayed, aren’t involved with anyone else. Many of the people I’ve encountered online who are new to polyamory, or aren’t polyamorous but are reading about it, assume that all poly relationships are triads that started when a married heterosexual couple decided to “add a female” to their marriage. (I use that phrasing because of the sheer number of times I’ve seen people using it in posts online.)

The “female” becomes a girlfriend to both the husband and wife. Unfortunately, in the real world, that sometimes, if not often, leads to the husband and wife prioritizing each other and the marriage, and having one-on-one time, while the other woman is left a distant second in the priorities and is only “allowed to” interact with the couple together, not with either individual.

That isn’t to say triads can’t work. They absolutely can, if everyone makes and sticks to agreements, communicates fully, and treats each other like human beings instead of marital aids. In online forums, one tends to see the relationships that are struggling, so what I’ve seen about triads that are failing or aren’t even getting off the ground isn’t necessarily representative of every triad in existence. But what I’ve stated above is the overwhelming majority of what I’ve seen in those forums.

Another poly configuration is often known as a “V”. This is a situation in which one person, the point of the V, has two partners who are *not* involved with one another. Each of those partners might also have other partners, or they might not. In my novel Shiny Objects, published in 2011 and out of print since 2014, the heroine, Elena, is in a V with her boyfriends Corin and Niko. In the novel, Elena and Corin had an existing relationship, and Corin consented to Elena beginning a relationship with Niko. Sometimes that’s how V’s start; an existing couple agrees to open up to seeing other people.

Other times, there is no existing couple. Some people are “solo poly”; that is, they aren’t living with or legally entangled with any partner, but have more than one person they date. This might still take the form of a V configuration or even a triad, if the solo person is dating people who are involved with one another in some way. Or it might take other forms.

Some people are part of poly networks, in which they might be dating two or more people who are dating two or more people, etc., but there’s overlap within who’s dating whom. For example, Sally might be dating Ed, Sheila, and Dave, while Ed is also dating Sheila and Elaine, and Elaine is also dating Dave, Marcus, Mary, and Nathan, and Mary and Nathan are married and don’t date anyone other than Elaine, and so on.

If that sounds confusing…well, yeah. It can be. And as I said, those are definitely not the only possible configurations in polyamory. Polyamory can be a lot of work, because within any grouping there are several relationships going on. For example, a triad isn’t only a relationship among three people; it’s actually four relationships: the three people together, person A and B, person B and C, and person C and A. Any relationship takes work, and the work can increase exponentially.

But the work is worth it for those who are polyamorous, just as the work that goes into any relationship is worth it.

If you want to learn more, leave your questions in the comments; if I can’t answer them myself, I’ll link to resources and sites where you can find more information.

Communication, Poly Style

Communication is the cornerstone and foundation of any relationship. If you aren’t able to talk to one another effectively, the relationship will likely crumble under conflict, differences in opinions or wants or needs, or just because you feel like you can’t get along.

In a polyamorous relationship, where more than one partner is involved in various configurations, communication is even more important. I’m not going to get into all the different types of poly configurations in this post, because that’s long enough to warrant a post of its own. (Stay tuned next Monday.)

But regardless of whether you have a triad where three people are all involved with each other, or a network where two people are involved with each other, and each of them is also involved with other people who are involved with other people and so on, at the core, every connection between any two people is a relationship in and of itself, as well as part of the larger configuration. Each of those connections needs to be nurtured and cared for, and to do that, everyone needs to communicate.

Different people have different communication needs. One person might prefer openness and honesty, and define that as sharing explicit details of dates and sexual interactions with the partners who weren’t involved. Another person might only want to know, and only want to share, that they have a date with another partner, and not discuss it beyond that. Some don’t even want to know that much.

Within a poly configuration, there might be people with different communication styles and needs, and part of the communication has to be figuring out what and how to communicate. What is each person comfortable knowing about other relationships or connections? What is each comfortable having other partners know about them? Is it okay to vent to one partner about another when something stressful arises? Does one partner even want to hear that you have other partners?

Relationships take work, and a lot of that work is communication. Polyamorous relationships take exponentially more work and communication, because more people’s needs, privacy, and so on have to be taken into account.

The work is worth it, whether you’re in a couple or a triad or a poly network large enough that you can’t even keep track of who has how many partners. Make no mistake, it isn’t easy. But it is worth it.

Loving Someone with Chronic Illness

Having a partner or family member who is dealing with any type of chronic illness is difficult. Sometimes you wish you could make them better, so they wouldn’t have to struggle anymore. Sometimes you resent that they need so much care and time—and it’s okay to feel that way, by the way, as long as you aren’t taking it out on them or others.

When you have a loved one who deals with one of the so-called “invisible illnesses,” it can be even more difficult. How can they say they don’t have strength to help clean the house? They look perfectly fine, and they didn’t have any trouble going to the kitchen for a glass of water. How can they say being at a family gathering on a holiday is triggering? My family’s perfectly nice, nothing at all like the one that abused them. How can they spend the entire day in bed and not do anything? There’s so much that has to get done!

People with those illnesses, which include mental illnesses, chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, migraines, and others, don’t “look sick.” And because of the nature of those illnesses, sometimes people who have them don’t *feel* sick either. Personally, I have a few “invisible illnesses.” Some days I get up, shower, get dressed, and I’m off to tackle the day, getting more done before bed than my husband says he would be able to do in a week. I walk fairly easily, and I appear, and sometimes even feel, happy.

But other days, the “demons” attack. I feel like the world’s going to end, and I can’t stop crying. I’m in so much pain and having so much trouble with coordination that walking from the bedroom to the bathroom—which is right beside the bedroom—is almost more than I can manage. I can’t leave the house. I force myself to at least be in the living room instead of the bedroom, but that takes so much out of me that I end up dozing on the couch most of the day.

My husband is wonderful on those days. He knows I’m not “faking it” or “lazy” when I ask him to go to the store because I can’t manage leaving the house, or when I ask him to finish mopping the kitchen because I’m too exhausted after only doing a third of it. But it took a while to get on the same page about him helping me with tasks. If I said, “I can’t handle going to the store, but we need things,” he sometimes said, “Then I guess you have to go to the store.” I had to learn to actually ask him to go instead of hinting.

It also took him a while to understand that if I say “I’m in so much pain right now, I hate this,” I’m not asking him to fix it. There isn’t anything he can do about the pain. I’m asking for comfort and for reassurance that I’m not burdening him by asking him to take over doing some of my usual tasks, and now that he realizes that, he’s great about giving me a hug, or walking me to the bedroom and bringing me a glass of water while I settle down to read or sleep.

It isn’t easy having an “invisible illness” (or more than one). It definitely isn’t easy being a loved one of someone who has “invisible illnesses,” something I also know from personal experience since I’m not the only one in my family who has them. But if you work together to figure out what the person with the illnesses needs, and how to meet those needs without sacrificing others’ needs, and if you recognize that at the base, the person with the illnesses most needs love and compassion, it can be managed.

Brushing Off the Dust

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog. I’ve been on indefinite hiatus from writing romance while I dealt with some personal stuff, including both my kids moving out of the house, one to college and the other to be a partner and stepparent.

It’s been a stressful few months, with occasional breaks of fun and entertainment.

Many of my books are now out of print. Those include the entire Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series and all associated books with MLR Press and Passion in Print Press, as well as all of my other titles with those two imprints. They also include all but three of my Ellora’s Cave titles, though I’ve heard rumblings around the internet that all Ellora’s Cave authors are having their rights returned in December. All of my Pink Petal Books/Jupiter Gardens books are off the market, since the publisher closed.

On the plus side, my Loose Id titles are still available, as are Love Like Vampires from Dreamspinner Press, and Dawn Over Dayfield from DSP Publications. Dawn Over Dayfield is now an award-winning book! In August, it took first place in the Mystery category of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Awards! That was hugely exciting. Now I’m waiting with bated breath to see what happens with the Edgar Awards, since Dawn Over Dayfield is also nominated for that.

My self-published novel Vengeance Is Sweet is also still available as an Amazon exclusive, e-book only.

I haven’t written any new romances. I don’t know whether I’m going to. I used to love writing them, but once I started writing for publication, and trying to get more and more books out there in the world, it became stressful and painful. Personal life circumstances didn’t help. I haven’t even been able to think of a romance *plot* in over a year, and I’m not sure whether that’s going to change.

But I still have books out there in the world, and I want to make sure people find them. I want to make sure people know *I* still exist. And someday in the future, I might self-publish some of my previously-published books even if I don’t write anything new. It remains to be seen.

I’m still writing young adult fiction under my Jo Ramsey pen name, though. I’m working on some nonfiction projects about healing, trauma recovery, and magic. (The witchcraft/spiritual version, not the up on stage with a top hat kind.) I’m starting a business related to those topics as well. I’m getting used to being an “empty nester,” and spending time with my partners and friends.

I’ll be blogging here twice a week. Mondays will be posts on a variety of topics; Thursdays will be short excerpts from my books, including some of the off-the-market ones. So I hope you’ll tune in, same Karenna time, same Karenna channel. (Wow… I hope I’m not the only one old enough to know that reference…)

Compatibility

Sometimes when you meet a new person, you feel an instant “click.” This is someone you want to get to know better. Someone you can see being part of your life in one way or another. Someone you believe you’re compatible with.

That someone might be the person you spend the rest of your life with, if you are actually as compatible as you believe the first time you meet. Or even if you don’t feel it at that first meeting. Compatibility doesn’t have to be instant. Sometimes it grows over time, and you end up with a person you might consider your soul mate.

But sometimes it decreases over time. Whether you feel that click the first time you meet or it develops more gradually, as more time passes, you might realize that you and that person aren’t as compatible as you believed. Maybe not at all, or maybe just not in some ways. Those can be some pretty big ways, though, like finding out one of you wants to get married and have kids, while the other is happy just living together.

When compatibility fades into incompatibility, it might mean the end of the relationship if there’s no way to compromise. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to compromise is for one person to completely change who they are or what they want, and that isn’t really fair. (In my opinion it also isn’t really a compromise; compromise means meeting partway, not one person doing all the work while the other stays where they are.)

When you find someone you’re compatible with, it might lead into a lifelong relationship…or it might not. But if you feel that click with someone, it’s worth taking the chance.

Giving an Apology

Over the weekend, my kids (ages 17 and 20, so not exactly kids anymore if you want to be technical) had a conflict that left both of them feeling hurt and angry. This post is essentially what I told the 20-year-old as they were trying to get over the situation.

Apologizing to someone doesn’t always mean you’ve done something wrong. It doesn’t mean you *think* you’ve done something wrong, or that you agree with their perspective.

Sometimes an apology is best translated as “I know I did something that hurt you (or made you angry, or upset you, or whatever), and I regret making you feel that way.”

In the particular conflict in my household, the 20-year-old had said they would do something with the 17-year-old.  The 20-year-old woke up feeling ill and with a fairly high fever, so wasn’t up to doing what they’d said they would do. The 17-year-old was angry and disappointed about this, with the result that she didn’t speak to the 20-year-old much of the rest of the day. The 20-year-old was having a hard time with it, so I asked if they’d apologized to their sister.

“No,” they said. “Why should I apologize? I can’t help being sick.”

That was when I explained my thoughts on apologizing. They wouldn’t be telling their sister they were sorry for being sick. They wouldn’t be agreeing with their sister’s reaction. They would just be acknowledging that they recognize how their sister feels and regret causing her to feel that way. I told them, “Don’t even make an excuse or try to explain. Just say ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t go with you’ and leave her alone.”

They didn’t seem to like the idea, because to them, apology means “I was wrong and you were right.” But they gave it a try anyway. As I told them, when there’s a conflict, someone has to be the first to say they’re sorry, or nothing gets resolved. Fortunately, this got resolved.

“I’m Not Going Anywhere”

In a relationship, one of the scariest possibilities is that of your partner leaving. For some of us with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, that fear can be particularly huge. Depression tells us we aren’t worth being with or don’t deserve our partner. Anxiety magnifies every small concern into a major fear. And some of us may have had previous partners say they couldn’t handle our “issues” and walk away.

Personally, I know I’m not the easiest partner to have. Sometimes I wouldn’t want to be around me, so I can’t understand why anyone else would. And I have had partners break up with me in part or in whole because they couldn’t deal with the depressive episodes, anxiety attacks, and/or PTSD meltdowns. (That isn’t something I suspect. It’s something those partners told me.) But I also have a husband who’s stuck it out for seven and a half years. And I have another partner who just last week, seeing me having an anxiety attack, said, “I’m going to tell you this right now. I know you’re afraid I’ll leave, because you’ve told me others have left you because of your anxiety. But I am not going anywhere.”

Those words meant everything. Once I got to a point where I was able to believe them.

When you’re in a relationship with someone who has mental health issues, it isn’t always smooth sailing. No matter how well-managed the illnesses are–and please keep in mind, these are ILLNESSES, not choices–by either medication, therapy, or both, there will be times when something flares up and things get rough. Those are the times when it’s most important to assure your partner that you’re there for them, that you aren’t going anywhere. And they’re the times when it will be the hardest for your partner to believe you. But they will try to believe, and hopefully you won’t go anywhere.

 

Relationship Teamwork

When you’re in a relationship and a problem comes up, sometimes it seems difficult to work together to solve it. Struggles with finances, with personal space or time together or apart, disagreements about kids…there are a number of issues that can arise in a committed relationship, and if the people involved have different opinions or feel overwhelmed, they might argue or stop discussing the problem altogether. Which, of course, doesn’t solve anything.

My husband likes to say that since we’re married, we’re a team. Even when things are complicated, or when we’re angry with each other about an issue or a difference in the way we choose to handle something, we’re still together, and that means we work together. I will admit there have been times when I’ve felt like we’re on opposing teams. Some issues are far more difficult than others. But so far, we’ve always managed to get back on the same side and solve the problem.

It isn’t always easy to function as a team with your partner(s). When conflicts arise, the last thing you might want to do is sit down and have a calm, civilized discussion with the person who you see as contributing to–or ignoring–the situation. But it’s important to remember that you chose to be on the same team, and to work together to keep things running smoothly.

Opening Your Heart

Open Heart

Since you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably noticed that the tagline for this site is “Open Your Heart.” I’ve talked a little about that in past blogs, but it has a slightly more personal meaning for me right now.

To be honest, there’s always been a personal note to it. I’ve had some hugely negative experiences in past relationships (which I’ve also discussed in other blog posts, as well as other venues, so I won’t get into it right now). Being able to let someone new into my heart several years ago when I met my husband was scary as hell. It was much safer to keep my heart closed, my guard up, and my true self hidden.

But over time, I did open my heart to him. With a lot of support and patience from him. And for the most part it’s been well worth it. Of course things aren’t always wonderful and magical with him. What marriage is? But if I’d never been willing to open myself up to possibilities after my first marriage ended, I wouldn’t have the man I have now, who has continued to be supportive and patient even when things aren’t great.

Right now, things are good with him. But a few weeks ago, a very close friend, someone I’d put more trust in than anyone else I know (yes, including Hubby), was dishonest with me and broke a very important promise. Because of the level of trust I had with him, that betrayal was a lot harder to deal with than it would have been from most people. Which means that it’s hard to trust anyone else right now.

As tends to happen often in my life, as soon as I decided that I was going to batten down the hatches and not deal with anyone other than Hubby and my kids, I randomly met someone who has the potential to become a good friend. If I can open my heart enough to let him. It isn’t any less scary to do that now than it was when I met Hubby, but it might be just as worth it.

Friends With the Ex?

Last week, I posed the question on Facebook of whether it’s possible to become friends with an ex. A couple of people responded that it hadn’t worked for them, but for the most part, the consensus seemed to be that if both parties are adult about it, and the relationship didn’t end on a hugely negative note, it is possible. Especially with time.

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In my life, for the most part, it hasn’t worked out that way. I’m only in contact with two of my exes, and one of those is only because he and I have kids together. We definitely aren’t friends. Just co-parents.

But the other one, surprisingly, has become a good friend, and I think that’s probably because he and I were more friends than anything to begin with. It was a long-distance relationship, so for the most part we just talked on the phone or texted. The relationship actually ended because he was in my area on business for a few weeks…and seeing each other didn’t work as well as talking and texting.

Because of the way things crashed between us, he chose to sever all contact with me, and it took six months before I was comfortable enough to reach out to him. But as soon as I did, we spent part of a conversation hashing out what had happened, and then picked up the friendship right where we’d left off. He’s now one of my key support people, just like he was before, and he’s the one I trust with the most about my life because he’s the one I know won’t judge anything I say.

If you’ve been in a relationship with someone, the ending isn’t easy. Even if it’s completely amicable and you’ve already agreed you’re better as friends, sometimes you need space for a little while to decide whether the friendship can work and how to go about it. And if there were hurt feelings on either side, the healing process might take longer.

But to my mind, if someone was worth having in your life in the first place, and assuming there weren’t strongly damaging reasons (like abuse) for relationship to end, they’re worth trying to keep as a friend as well. It might require time and patience, but there’s no reason not to try.