Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Someone New


We took the summer off to work on some other things, but now we’re back.

While we were gone, Marc joined Ok Cupid to meet some new people.  He chose Ok Cupid because you can be in a committed, open and/or polyamorous relationship and interested in meeting new potential partners.  How wonderfully inclusive!  (We like that.) 

Since then, he has chatted up a few women, has met a couple of them, but has been on actual dates with only one, let's call her Ekaterina (Marc picked the name.  What's up with the Russian names?).  He has been to her place, she has been to ours, and she and Marc have become sexually intimate.  

She and I (Mimi) have never met, but she knows about me, my and Marc’s relationship, and, from what Marc has told me, she seems to be comfortable with the whole situation so far.  

Bringing someone new into the mix is always interesting and poses some challenges and exciting opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise arise. 

Since we started the blog, we haven’t experienced someone new.  As opportunity knocks on Marc’s door,  we thought it a good time to talk about what it’s like when one partner starts dating someone new.

Mimi:
When Marc meets someone new, I am happy and excited for him, curious about the new lover, and anxious about the new relationship.

The anxiety is about the unknown.  Who is this person?  What is she like?  

When a new person comes into the picture, depending on the situation, I usually have to do some work around fear and insecurity. This part of doing an open relationship has gotten easier for me over time.  When we first opened the relationship, every new person was a pretty big struggle in terms of my insecurities and negotiating how to deal with feelings, time, caretaking, etc.  With each new person and over the years, it has gotten easier because I know I can do the work around my insecurities, Marc will take care of me, and we’ll be fine.  The first time you do anything scary it can be overwhelming.  But once you go through it and come out stronger and a better person on the other side, going in again isn’t nearly as bad—in fact, it can actually be good. 

Despite getting better at all of it, however, a new person always means dealing with the particularities of the person that might trigger some of my own jealousies and insecurities.  As I’ve said in previous posts, before I actually meet Marc’s new lovers I imagine them to be sexual savants with perfect personalities and bombshell bodies.  I have to immediately start my own internal work to remember who I am and what Marc and I have together.  

That’s key for me.  Rather than spending my time obsessing about her (imaginary) spectacular breasts and sucking skills, I shift my attention to myself and to my spectacular breasts and sucking skills.  Though I say that with tongue tucked firmly in cheek, it is true that obsessing about how “good” or sexy or compelling the new person is just makes me feel more insecure. If, however, I think about my positive qualities and remind myself that Marc loves and desires me for who I am, the fear dissipates and sometimes disappears altogether.

Of course, on some occasions this is easier said than done.  Sometimes a new person will possess a certain quality that really trips up my fears and insecurities (regardless of how Marc feels about the person or that quality).  Lately my crux is around age. Most of the women Marc has dated or slept with in recent years are 15-20 years younger than me. Not only does it make me cringe politically, the whole culture tells Marc and every other heterosexual man that younger is better.  Also, younger can (but doesn't always) mean less mature and perhaps more interested in a "good catch" than polyamory.  

I'll be honest, I like that Ekaterina is closer to our age.  But it's also true that I welcome the work that I have to do around my own insecurities and internalization of the cultural message that tells all of us that women age out of being sexy.  Hell, if I'm going to be sexy and sexual for the rest of my life (and I will be), I'm the last person who should believe younger women are better!  As I've told Marc on many occasions, he can date really young women; it's just going to take a bit more communication and TLC on his part. 

Anyway, what I'm trying to say it that sometimes it’s harder to focus more on my positive qualities rather than the new person’s age, or great job, or tits, or wardrobe, or motorcycle or whatever it is that trips me up.  

This is where compersion comes in.  Seriously.  I am a big believer in the power of compersion because I know first hand it works!

Compersion is the word some polyamorists use to describe taking pleasure in your partners joy and pleasure with another.  When I start to feel fear, I think about how much fun Marc is having.  I don’t compare myself to the woman he is with; I think about him.  I imagine him smiling, and flirting, and feeling great.   The empathic happiness I feel for him crowds out the fear.  It really does.  It’s hard to feel fear and resentment over another person’s pleasure and happiness when you focus on them rather than yourself.  I also think about how, when I’m on dates or spending time with Scott, it doesn’t change how I feel about Marc.  In fact, it makes me appreciate him more.

The other benefit of compersion is I put myself in their shoes, and to be honest, it's great fantasy fodder for me.   It turns me on to think about Marc having the thrill of a new lover, and the new lover experiencing Marc. 

And it’s not like I don’t get something out of it!  

First, it's great that Ekaterina knows about me and how Marc and I do our relationship, and she seems okay with it all.  That makes me like her already.  I always look forward to meeting someone new, and a new lover in Marc's life means someone new in my life. If they go on more dates, I will request that she and I meet.  It's important that everybody has open lines of communication, and that's impossible with a stranger. 

Second, remember that line from Jerry McGuire, “Happy Wife; Happy Life”?  When Marc has fun dates, he’s a “happy wife.”  As we have posted before, open and poly relationships are usually easier when no one is “poly single” or not having dates.  When Marc is “poly single”, he gets more possessive and has a tendency to focus on my relationship with Scott.  A new person could potentially change that. When he went out with Ekaterina for the first time, I hoped that it “worked out” and that his date was fun, sexy, and fulfilling.   I was genuinely happy when Marc told me he was going on a second date with her.  Happy for him, happy for her, and happy for me because it means we’re doing an open, polyamorous relationship and that’s exactly where I want to be. 

And then there is the straight-up, self indulgent perk of more attention from Marc.  I’ve heard of wives in traditional, patriarchal marriages “allowing” their husbands to cheat and pretending not to know because they, the wives, get “guilt” presents. Although Marc doesn’t lavish me with attention or gifts out of guilt—he has nothing to feel guilty about, he does lavish me with attention to show me that he loves me, he is committed to me, and he appreciates the gift I’ve given him by encouraging him and being happy about his dates with other people. 

When I think about how much pleasure his dates bring him, I think to myself, he’s damn lucky to have me.  I also think about my relationship with Scott and the freedom Marc gives me and I say to myself, I am so goddamn lucky to have him.  And that’s what really makes me feel confident, trusting, and secure when a new person comes into the picture. After all, isn’t that what having a relationship is all about regardless of who is fucking whom? 

MARC: 

Starting any kind of a relationship with someone new is always interesting.  Will she like me?  Will I like her?  Will there be chemistry?  Will the sex be good (if it goes there)?  Those questions all existed when I was single, and they still exist while I’m in this polyamorous relationship, though now, I also need to be asking myself a few more questions.  

I ask myself if this person will respect the parameters and special dynamic that is my open relationship with Mimi.  

I also have to make sure that the person is within specific parameters that make dating someone do-able within the context of my relationship with Mimi. Certain attributes trigger Mimi more than others, so I’m generally careful to select someone who I know Mimi will be able to “work with” mentally and will not present challenges too great for her to have to process, or it will be difficult for her and difficult for me.  I’m also careful not to date anyone who is a colleague or former student of Mimi’s or is somehow in her social circle in a way that would be problematic if I happened to be sleeping with them.

Before moving past that first drink together and on to a second date, the subject of my primary relationship with Mimi always comes up (if not organically, then I bring it up).  One nice thing about OK Cupid is that the fact that I’m in a polyamorous relationship is already made known in my profile, so there’s not going to be a “really?  I didn’t know that…gotta go” scenario on that first date.  Ekaterina is my first, and thus far, only, meetup, so we’ll see how well people read my profile in the future.  

I met a lovely woman in Jackson Hole about 1.5 years ago (organically, in a bar), and over dinner, we began talking about relationships, and I explained my situation with Mimi.  She responded by saying that she could never do that, or seriously date someone who was in an open relationship.  We had a great night together and have remained friends since, but we’ll most likely never sleep together.

That’s often the response – “really?  Wow, I never could do that…I’d be too jealous”.  I get along well with open minded people, and I think agreeing to date someone who is in an open relationship makes you a bit open minded by default, so it’s sort of a pre-selection.

This relationship (or whatever it’s called) that I began recently with Ekaterina is unique when it comes to the open relationship that Mimi and I have because Mimi has not yet met Ekaterina, and has also not been insistent that she does meet her soon.  I’m sure they will meet at some point, but in the past, there seemed to be a “pre-approval” process for anyone who I was seriously considering sleeping with, and there hasn’t been one this time around.  As Mimi mentioned, her crux has been age, and since Ekaterina is the same age as I am, that hasn’t been a factor.  This fact, and the fact that she is engaging in compersion, she has been doing a lot of good work around other insecurities, and she knows that her relationship with Scott will be a bit easier as long as I’m seeing someone (so that I’m not poly-single) are all factors that I believe contribute to decreasing the need to meet my dating options.  I also think that she has more confidence in my selection process.  This means that she trusts that I wouldn’t see someone who would be a threat to our primary relationship.

I know Mimi has to do a lot of work around me starting a new relationship with someone, and I appreciate the fact that she does that work.  Oddly enough, I would actually prefer to be doing that kind of work.  In other words, I would prefer that Mimi dated someone new every few months rather than only seriously dating one person with a few one night flings here and there.  I find that her engaging in a long term LOVING relationship is more threatening to me and our primary relationship, but we each feel differently about that and do our best to respect each other’s preferences.  Ekaterina is only the second person I’ve dated regularly solo since we began the open relationship back in 2006, so dating someone new is a work in progress.  I believe it’s worth the effort.