Friday, April 20, 2012

Making "Mistakes"

Marc and I recently had a party. Included among the guests was Marc’s current lover, Svetlana (not her real name). 

At one point, a few hours into the festivities, I was chatting up a friend when he excused himself to use the restroom.  One of the bathrooms available to guests is accessible through my and Marc’s bedroom.  The guest with the full bladder and I were standing relatively close to the bedroom door, so he decided to head in that direction. 

The bedroom door was closed, which is unusual at one of our parties, mostly so guests feel comfortable using that bathroom, but also because the doggies need access to their beds when they grow weary from dancing and harassing humans for a Manchou chicken wing.  My friend hesitated at the closed door and looked at me.  I gave him a nod to let him know it would be okay if he went in.

As he started to open the door, someone on the other side, in my and Marc’s bedroom, slammed the door shut in his face.  Startled, he looked at me.  I heard the slam and was headed over to see what was up. 

“Someone just slammed the door in my face.”  He was mostly shocked, but also a bit taken aback.

I tried myself, only to find that someone was holding the door closed. “What the hell?”  I knocked with emphasis (read: pounded my fist). 

My guest was now dancing a little “gotta pee” jig and looked at me with an expression somewhere between pity and fear—probably fear for whoever was on the other side of that door.  He slipped by me and toward the bathroom at the other end of the house and politely said, “It’s okay.  I’ll just find another bathroom.”

I pounded again and Marc opened the door.  “What the fuck?” 

“Me and Svetlana were in here.  Sorry.”

I felt my blood pressure rise as Marc slipped into the crowd.  I followed him into his office.

Again, I asked, “What the fuck?”

“Nothing was going on.  I was counting money for the DJ and Svetlana was by the door.  I have no idea why she held it closed.”

“Not cool.  I don’t want to talk about it now, but totally not cool.”

I walked away and rejoined the party.  As I was mixing drinks at our counter, Svetlana slipped out of our bedroom and joined a group of her friends. 

The next day, I asked Marc what happened in the bedroom and why he or Svetlana held the door closed.  He said that he didn’t really remember but that they probably kissed a little bit.  I asked him if it would be okay if I sent a message to Svetlana to ask her what happened.  He said, “Sure.”

I sent Svetlana a message, and she responded with an apology and an explanation.  I told her in no uncertain terms that blocking me from entering my and Marc’s bedroom while he and she are in there is unacceptable.  I also requested that they don’t sneak off to be alone while I’m in the house.  She agreed, apologized, said she totally understood, and that it would never happen again.  Later that day, she sent a message to Marc apologizing to him.  And that was that.

So, what was that like?  What went wrong, and how might all of us do things differently?

What’s it like when Marc and/or his partner(s) do something that you perceive as a “mistake”?  (We’ll flip this one too and write a future blog about Mimi and her lover(s) doing something that Marc perceives as a mistake.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about rules lately.  Setting down rules, I think, can sometimes be a quick and easy way to mask or avoid insecurities rather than deal with and express them. 

Looking back, I did think of what might go wrong with Svetlana at our party.  To be specific, I thought about how terrifying it would be to me if Marc and Svetlana were arm in arm the whole night, giggling with each other and our guests, and wandering off to be “alone” (read: not with me).  I’m the sort of person who tends to play out the worst-case scenario in my mind so, if it happens, I feel like I have some semblance of control and a plan.  This works great for mountaineering or triathlon.  When doing an open relationship and polyamory?  Not so much. 

The reason it doesn’t work is because I tend to put outlandish, completely unrealistic visions in my head when it comes to Marc’s relationships with others (remember how I picture erotic savants and sexual super heroes before I meet Marc’s lovers?)  Perhaps these outrageously unrealistic expectations are a way to make it all “that wasn’t so bad,” but more likely, my visions reveal my own insecurities.

In this case, I was terrified Svetlana would become “the hostess”.  My vision included her taking over my house, my guests, and most important, my partnership with Marc. 

My fears were real, but they really weren’t valid.   By being real, I mean I was really scared and those feelings are important.  By not being valid, I mean that the fears are not based on something that, in any likelihood, would ever happen.  So, for example, if I’m climbing a mountain and I’m really scared that guy Yeti is around every turn, that fear is real and must be addressed.  However, it would be a huge mistake to make my climbing team adjust our plan or climbing strategy because of my fear of Yeti.  Fear of Yeti is real, but not valid.   When fears are real, but not valid, the best thing to do is try to deal with the fear rather than make everybody else adjust to accommodate your fear. 

Setting up rules to deal with real, but invalid fears is like making the climbing team adjust to something that isn’t real.  There is no way Marc (or Svetlana) would ever shut me out like I feared, and at the risk of some conceit, there’s no one who could ever take my place or overshadow me as host of one of my and Marc’s party (except, of course, Marc, who is the hostess with the mostest!). 

In the end, none of what I had envisioned happened.  However, if I were being honest with myself and with Marc and with Svetlana, I would have said something to each of them before the party.  “Hey, listen, I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable about this situation, and I know that you two “coupling up” at the party would be hard for me.”  Ideally, the three of us would talk about it and the bedroom incident wouldn’t have happened.

Alas, I didn’t say anything and the bedroom incident happened. I was surprised and angered by being blocked from my own bedroom by Svetlana, and those feelings were real and valid.   As much as I should have expressed any discomforts I was feeling, they should have done the same and, I believe, asked me how I would feel if they had a moment alone together. 

Marc did this once before.  A woman he was dating, but not sleeping with, came to one of our parties a long time ago.  When she was leaving he asked if it would be okay if he walked her to her car so they could have some time alone.  I said that I wouldn’t be comfortable with that, and so, he hugged her at the door.  This was a long time ago, and my discomfort was 100% insecurity on my part.  I’d like to think that if Marc and Svetlana came to me to ask how I’d feel if they had some time alone together, I would have said, “I’m a little uncomfortable, but that’s just my own insecurities.  Go ahead, but don’t be gone all night and not in our bedroom.” At least that’s how I would like to respond. 

Next time Svetlana comes over when I’m there, I’m going to have to make sure I say to both of them, “There are no rules about having some alone time together because my fears about what that means or what might happen are invalid.  My only request is that you consider my feelings and ask first rather than ‘sneak off’ behind my back.  Oh, and if the bedroom incident happens again, I’m gonna go all medieval on both your asses!  Just kidding……..kind of.” 

What’s it like when you and your partner(s) do something that Mimi perceives as a “mistake”?

It was my birthday.  We had a great DJ at the party, which relieved me from my usual DJ’ing duties, and it also allowed me time to dance and enjoy myself.  At most of our parties, I feel the need to be the host with the most and I don’t necessarily really enjoy myself, but this time was different.  That also meant that I could imbibe a bit more than usual, and I guess I did that night, so I have a fuzzy recollection of what actually went on in those brief moments described above. 

Svetlana later told me that she had come into the room and taken advantage of the short “alone time” to show me a bit of leg (which, by the way, if you’re wondering, is always appreciated).  I really don’t remember. 

When Mimi brought it up the next day, I was honest.  I told her I’m not really sure what happened, but that we didn’t do anything terribly inappropriate together during the party.  That’s really not my style.  We have had guests turn on the water and hop into our Jacuzzi bath during a party in the past, and I always thought it to be a bit gauche to hide away and make out.  A little flirting is great, but save the gettin’ down for a.  when the guests have gone if it’s with Mimi and I , or b.  when you and your date get home.   At least, that’s my usual M.O.  Apparently, probably due to having one too many cocktails, my consciousness about the “right thing to do” went out the window, and I wasn’t really concerned for Mimi’s feelings.  As soon as she came in, I realized this was not a good thing to be doing.

Beyond being honest, being open to the concerns of your partner is so important.  It’s easy to get defensive, as I sometimes do, or overly stressed by a complaint, but once you’re able to just accept, “yeah, I fucked up”, it’s easier to move forward.  Sometimes it seems that that is really all Mimi wants to hear, but sometimes, it’s difficult for me to just go there without there being some explanation, etc.  I’ll continue to work on getting the “I fucked up” part with less explanation.

I thought Svetlana did a good job of addressing it with Mimi and I and I know she felt a bit embarrassed by it, as well.  She also told me she had been nervous coming to the party and had a few beverages to drink, and her inhibitions were a bit less present than usual.

Neither of us are perfect, both in what we do, and how we handle being confronted by what we do when it bothers the other person.  Feeling like you have a solid relationship that you WANT to be in really helps.  Arguments, discomfort, conflicts, etc. will all arise, especially within the context of an open relationship….there’s a lot of negotiation to be done.  As I’ve said many times in past blogs, how you DEAL with those conflicts is what makes or breaks this type of relationship.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekends Apart

Last week, Marc and I spent the weekend apart.  I was visiting Scott, and Marc stayed in New Orleans and had some quality time with one of his lovers.

I left on a 7am, Friday morning flight that was delayed because of thunderstorms in my destination city and returned late Monday evening because of thunderstorms in New Orleans.  No matter my direction, heading out or heading home, thunderstorms were on the horizon. 

My trip started with a cab ride to the airport.  I had to leave the house at 6 am, and Marc said he’d pay for a taxi if he could avoid that 5:45 alarm to take me to the airport.  Remember that scene in Fargo when Margie gets the early morning call about the triple homicide and her loveable husband, Norm (pronounced “Narm”) insists on getting up to make her breakfast?  Yeah, well, I get a whole lot of wonderful things out of this primary relationship with Marc, but early morning breakfast and taxi rides to see my lover just aren’t on the menu.  I understand this about Marc, and so I agreed that a taxi would be better than waking a sleeping grizzly, which is what Marc is before 10am. 

My ride was 15 minutes late, but just as I was dialing the cab company, a taxi pulled up.  The driver got out of the car to help me with my bags.  As he hoisted the roll-aboard into the trunk, he said in a thick Cajun accent, “Darlin’, I can’t take a credit card.”

I agreed to pay cash and jumped into the back seat.  “I’m kind of in a hurry.”

“No problem, sweetheart.  I’ll get you there on time.” He slowly pulled away from the curb and proceeded to go 20 in a 35-miles per hour speed zone up my block.  He maintained a steady speed 10 miles an hour slower than the speed limit the entire way.

Though I was sleepy and didn’t feel talkative, I was wondering if this guy would be as entertaining as every taxi driver I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet on my way to or from Louis Armstrong International Airport.  As I sat watching the speedometer hoping I could make him accelerate, I remembered my favorite driver.  He was an Iraqi who, when Marc told him we were on our way to climb mountains in Nepal, said, “Do you think you’ll see that guy Yeti?”  I smiled at the memory and missed Marc.  Though I was beyond excited to spend time with Scott, there was a part of me that wished Marc was next to me and we were on another M&M adventure. 

As I held both Marc and Scott in my conscious desire, the driver brought me back to the car when he said, “Darlin’, you are in fine shape.”

I shawl of disappointment dropped over my shoulders.  Great, I thought. I got the only sexual harasser on the fleet.

I looked out the side window to avoid any rear-view mirror eye contact.  “Oh.  Thank you.”

“No, I mean it, girl.  You look firm.  I should have asked you to sit in the front seat.”

Trying to nip it all in the bud, I said, “And I would have declined.”

“I’m just joshin’ ya, sweetheart.”

The dispatcher piped in to see if the driver had picked me up despite my desire to pay with a credit card.  “Yeah, she’ll pay cash.  We’re all good.  She’s a sweetheart.”

He ended up being less creepy than I expected.  Mostly we talked about the Saints and what sort of effect the NFL sanctions would have on next season. 

We arrived at the airport, he placed my bags on the curb, and I paid him.  Before I could turn, he looked at me again.  Bracing myself for some sort of uncomfortable complement, he said, “You really are something special.  I can tell.  I can see you’re a happy person.” 

This made me smile.  “Thank you,” I said, holding eye contact.  As I walked away, I wondered if the security of a known and true love combined with the glow of a new love was showing on my face, on my body.  And then I thought about how Marc might be getting similar complements these days.

I made it to the gate on time only to sit on the tarmac for 2 ½ hours waiting for storms to clear out of Chicago.  I sent a text to Scott to let him know we were going to be delayed.  After expressing heart-wrenching disappointment (we hadn’t seen each other in the flesh for almost 2 months), he proceeded to entertain me by sending r-rated text messages, including a couple of pics that made the man behind and across the aisle gasp at least once and the woman in the seat next to me lean over a bit, crook her neck, and try to get a better view.  I thought about sending a text to Marc to tell him my flight is delayed and then decided not to.  My late arrival would have no impact on him, I’d just wake him, and he’d probably worry about my flight anxiety getting tweaked by a delay due to storms.  I thought about him all cozy in our bed, the dogs snoozing on their pillows, and all three of them, Marc and our two dogs, sawing logs to create a snoring symphony loud enough to wake the neighbors.  I was only a couple of hours into my weekend, and already I missed my family.  

Finally, the captain informed us that we were clear for take off.  I took one last look at one of Scott’s naughty texts, sent Marc, who by now was probably waking, a message to let him know I wouldn’t be letting him know I’ve landed safely until after noon, and then I turned off my phone and settled into my seat.  A half hour later, we were still immobile on the runway.  The captain once again came on the p.a. and said that the computers used to calculate something about the take-off were down so they had do it by hand.  Gulp.  I leaned over to the voyeur next to me and said, “I hope they’re competent.” 

Not only did they have to calculate all of the equations by hand, they had to drive the plane over to deliver the paperwork to the F.F.A.  Before we knew it, we were coasting across the airport headed to the back of some building.  I saw a pudgy, out-of-breath, balding man in a short sleeved, button down shirt, tie, and khakis lumbering toward the plane.  The flight attendant opened the door, handed him the necessary papers, and he lumbered back to his air-conditioned office.  Only in New Orleans, I thought to myself.

Apparently, they had calculated whatever needed calculating with some accuracy, because finally we were airborne.  As the aircraft started to level out, that damn captain came on once more to inform us that our flight pattern included a 500-mile detour to avoid the storms.  For a brief moment I wondered if Mother Nature was conspiring to send a message to me that the monogamous couple is the only natural way to do sexual intimacy, and who was I to try to do something different?  I remembered Marc saying something about how, if I were to die in a plane crash going to see Scott, he’d kill me.  Shaking my fists at the clouds as we bumped along in some seriously fucked up turbulence, I said to Mother Nature, “Nice try, lady!  If my real mother couldn’t make me a good girl, no one can.”

I arrived safely at the airport 3 ½ hours late and was greeted by Scott breaking in to run to get across the baggage claim area and take me into his arms.  I was so happy to see him, and I imagined that Marc and his girlfriend would also be cherishing the first physical contact after not having seen each other for a week or so.  Feeling a small pang of jealousy, I assumed Marc would experience the exact same thing when he thought about Scott and me together.  Walking to the car hand-in-hand with Scott, I reminded myself to be especially loving toward marc and express just how much I miss him when I let him know I arrived safely.  And I hoped that he would do the same for me.

Balancing the intoxicating elixir of new relationship energy with the desire and responsibility to care for a primary partner precisely because of that energy can be tricky business, especially over a couple of days apart.  This past weekend, since both Marc and I were spending time with our lovers instead of with each other, we had a good opportunity to try to strike that balance. 

So, how do you balance a romantic weekend with your lover with the responsibility you have to your primary?  What do you see as your responsibilities, and how do you fulfill them?

Mimi:  When I am spending the weekend with Scott, I have three main responsibilities.  1) Be available to Marc if he needs to connect, 2) Be focused on and attentive to Scott, and 3) Don’t impose on or interfere with Marc’s time with his lover. 

Being available to Marc means that I can’t completely drop out of my and his cyber or digital connections for three days.  If I see that he has called or sent a text, I try to respond the moment I have some time to myself.  This does not mean having my phone right there and the second Marc contacts me excusing myself from whatever Scott and I are doing to text or call Marc.  At least that’s the goal. This is a lot easier said than done because in the past, Marc has expressed some dissatisfaction with my not answering or replying to a text right away.  And this is where #2 comes in.

Scott and I are doing a long distance relationship, which means we get to spend time physically together about once/month at most.  Even if we lived in the same city, when I’m with Scott, I’m with Scott.  I would be shirking my responsibilities to him if I was constantly texting or talking to Marc…or any one else, for that matter.  There have been times when I’ve had to ask Scott if he would give me some space to make a connection with Marc.  Last weekend, for instance, I requested a bit of alone time so I could call Marc, and though I know it was probably hard on Scott, he obliged and took the dog for a walk so I could have some privacy.  Marc and I had a phone conversation that helped us connect for a moment, and when Scott returned, I could once again focus on him. 

I understand that Marc feels a need to reach out to me when I’m with Scott because I sometimes feel the same thing when he’s spending time with a lover.  But it is my responsibility to not interfere and demand his attention when he is with someone else.  This means that, unless there is an emergency, I don’t send texts or call when Marc is on a date.  I do send texts or try to call once a day to check in when we are apart for the weekend, but I don’t expect him to answer or reply right away.  If I’m feeling a need to connect, I will send a text saying I need a bit of TLC, and I know that eventually he will be there for me.  It is unfair for me to get angry or hurt if I don’t hear back from him right away, but to be honest, sometimes I do feel it.  The key is to deal with my feelings on my own.  The worst thing I could do is take it out on Marc by badgering him with “Where are you?  You must be having sex,” sorts of messages or texts.  It’s not fair to him, and it’s not fair to his date or girlfriend because it’s demanding his time and attention when I’ve agreed to give him space to focus on another--especially if they're having sex!  

It’s so important for all of us, Marc and his lover, Scott and me, and Marc and me to have space to cultivate our relationships to each other.  This also means sometimes telling our lovers to give Marc and me some breathing room, but that’s a topic for another blog. 

Yes, it’s true… I’m not a morning person.  I get a lot of work done between 11:30pm and 1:30am.  Mimi was very sweet this time around…she left little love notes on my cereal box, my keyboard, and near the front door to remind me that she was thinking about me before she left.  I was able to “pay Mimi off” and get her to take a cab. 

It was nice to have my lover (who we’ll call Svetlana…and for the record, Svetlana is not “one of my lovers”…she’s currently the only lover I’m seeing these days) over.  Though we did not spend the entire weekend together as Mimi and Scott did (we took Saturday off, as I had to work much of the day), we definitely spent more time together than usual, and we enjoyed each other’s company. 

Since the last time I had Svetlana spend some weekend time with me while Mimi was away with Scott, Mimi has had a weekend away in Chicago with Scott where I had no intimacy with a lover (see our “Home Alone” entry), and I definitely prefer NOT being alone while she’s gone.  It seems to balance things out a bit and takes the sting out of her being away with someone else.

I, too, try not to contact Mimi much when she is away.  That said, I am guilty of assuming that when she doesn’t answer the phone or return texts, it’s because she is having sex (but to be fair, the first time Scott came to New Orleans, that actually WAS the reason, though I assume it’s not always the reason).  It’s tough to balance the need to connect with realizing that we both need to let each other “do our thing” when we have weekends apart like this. 

When we parted ways, we both promised to take care of each other when she returned to New Orleans.  That’s the biggest thing that makes this open relationship run as smoothly as possible.  It’s so important to check in with each other and find out if there’s anything that will help the other person deal with his/her emotions any better.  Boundaries are also key.  Realizing what emotions YOU have to deal with on your own, or with friends/confidants, and what emotions you should expect your partner to help you out with.  I personally have insecurities and jealousies just like most people do, but I realize that Mimi’s only job is to answer questions, and confirm her feelings for me, not to do the work that needs to be done for me to deal with the insecurities….that is work I need to do.

One other thing that Mimi and I do is make an effort to make some things still special between only the two of us (no, I’m not talking about butt sex).  There are certain restaurants that Mimi and I go to and certain types of shopping we do at specific stores in Chicago when we’re there, and Mimi has agreed not to do those things with Scott, so that they can be our special things to do when we’re there.  Likewise, there are certain restaurants that I don’t go with Svetlana, and specific things I don’t do with Svetlana while we’re at our (mine and Mimi’s) house.

These are all little things that require negotiation, and that communication is super important.  Our biggest responsibility to each other during, before, and after these weekends apart is communication, and as long as we keep the lines of communication open, and engage in that without much judgment, we can make it work.