Earlier today the friend of a friend sent me an email:
“I am currently working on reading the second edition of The Ethical Slut… was wondering if you had any ideas of other books I could read on poly that are any good?”
Here is my response:
Regarding polyamory and reading material — I’ve not read *any* books on it and very little in the way of online material. I come to polyamory by nurturing — my parents are poly and I lived communally until I was 10 or so. So I can’t really recommend any reading material from personal experience of it. I actually own The Ethical Slut but I’ve not read it. Why? I found myself resisting reading it and after thinking about it, decided that I didn’t want to influence my own innate understanding of it with someone else’s attempt to explain it or persuade others to give it a try.
That said, I have read a bit of the Loving More site (http://www.lovemore.com/) with an eye toward being a contributing writer. My friends Y and his wife X run the Poly Circle Discussion Group (http://pcdg.portlandpoly.org/) and the books I know they recommend in addition to The Ethical Slut, are:
‘Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless & Hopeful‘ (Ravenscroft)
‘Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits‘ (Anapol)
‘Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships‘ (Taormino)
I’ve met Tristan Taormino and she is a friend of Y. She comes to Portland often to speak, so I’d say to try her book next.
I can tell you that the tendency of society to insist that we chose one person to be all things to us creates a lot of unnecessary tension and stress. A lot of people get into that mode of feeling like they settled for someone, settled for Mr Right Now instead of Mr Right, or worse, withhold forming intimate bonds thinking they’ll miss out on something better later on if they do.
I can also tell you that being self-honest is an absolute necessity. Self-inquiry and contemplation are practices that you are going to need to be comfortable with — you can’t really have healthy relationships with others until you’ve established one with yourself. In many ways we are each of us the biggest mystery to ourselves. We don’t know why we do half the shit we do — we just do it. Getting eye-level with your consciousness and being alert to your feelings and reactions helps resolve a lot of the self-sabotaging that goes on in each of us. I recommend meditation and journalling. We are blessed with being self-aware and each of us is a book-in-progress, so write your story, revise it, consider how things could be done differently in future situations, and outline the future chapters. We can live life intentionally, rather than accidentally.
Establishing good self-communication then makes it possible to have good communication in relationships. Especially poly ones. Jealousy is the biggest problem in any relationship, be it sibling, friend, colleague or partner. And the root of jealousy is issues with scarcity / abundance. Being self-aware and having good self-communication means we can often intercept the negative self-talk that arises as a result of feeling threatened by the prospect of scarcity / loss. Being able to share our feelings and thoughts with partners is both beautiful and necessary, so long as we learn to approach it in such a way that it is not a Blame Game. As soon as we make someone “wrong” or as soon as someone feels we are making them “wrong” we’ve lost the opportunity to communicate effectively.
My ex-girlfriend used to say “You made me do it” or “You make me feel like I’m crazy” and it really pushed my buttons when she did. If she could find a way to make something someone else’s fault, she would. She lived her life as a victim, and last I heard, she still does. But not me! I accept responsibility for my thoughts and actions, and I recognize that in the arena of thoughts and actions, I have control. But I also know that feelings are feelings, that they are what they are and that they arise from deep within, and I honor them and recognize that while how I feel is *always* appropriate (because it is how I feel) — I get to choose both what I think about how I am feeling *and* what I’m going to do about it — and thus I am responsible for the outcomes. There is no escaping that, no matter how much I may want to deny it, and did live in denial of it — ultimately I am responsible for my life, and being involved with others who also accept responsibility for their lives makes everything easier.
So basically, I guess what I am trying to say, is the best thing you can do is to make sure that you’re in a good place with yourself. If you are healthy and happy and self-aware, then everything flows naturally from that place — if you have a loving relationship with yourself love comes naturally, and the more you love the more love comes your way. From there it makes sense to keep expanding the circle of loved ones and exploring the various permutations of loving — there is little to lose and much to gain.
Lastly, be aware… things change. Like the ocean, we ebb and flow. One day or week or month we may want to be free to love anyone and everyone, and then the next, we want someone all to ourselves. Some of it is tied to hormones, seasons, lunar cycle, and emotional rhythms. Some if it has to do with aspects specific to each person we are involved with. It is important to remember that how we feel and what we want is valid AND that what others feel and want is also valid. Sometimes the two (or three or four ;) are in conflict and that is ok. The “conflict” may be temporary or permanent but it is only an earth-shattering disaster if we choose to make it one. Giving ourselves room to feel the emotional intensity while not succumbing to the pressing urge to act now is a good pressure valve to develop.
I hope I don’t sound too preachy. You may already have some or all of this down and if so, great. If not, that is cool, too. I mean no insult or injury in what I’m trying to communicate, only a desire for you to know love and happiness. I’ve learned to operate from the space that everyone is perfect, whole and complete just as they are while also understanding that most people just don’t realize they are ;)