What are the not-so-obvious red flags when dating a person who is new to polyamory?

 

What are the not-so-obvious red flags when dating a person who is new to polyamory?

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First, a general service announcement: There’s no “right” way to do polyamory, but there are many, MANY “wrong” ways!

Second, I’m happy to hear that as someone more experienced, you’re open to dating less experienced polyamorous people. They tend to universally get a bad rap, but: two of my longest, strongest partnerships have been with folks for whom I was their first non-monogamous relationship. Some people are just naturally well-suited for it!

Third, some of the points below are more generalized “dating red flags” that apply just as much to non-monogamy as they do to monogamy!

Now, let’s kick it off:

  • Overall life instability. We’ve all been there. You meet a hottie at a bar, take them home, start imagining a life together...and all of a sudden they’re spending frequent nights at your place because they have “roommate drama”. Or you find yourself constantly footing the bill because their car broke down, or their paycheck is late, or their cell phone bill this month put them in debt...again. They may be in between jobs while dealing with family dysfunction AND working to diagnose some mystery chronic pain issues...and indeed, they may be a really good person! But you don’t want a relationship to kick off when one or both parties are in a state of deep, consistent struggle. If you feel that “click” nevertheless, remember that you can always come back to that person - or they can come back to you! - in the future, when one or both of you are more stable.
     
  • Lack of a personal social circle and/or support system. A key indicator that you may end up in a codependent polyamorous relationship with a partner new to non-monogamy is observing a lack of people for them to lean on in tough times. No matter how quickly a person takes to non-monogamy, it’s a long, challenging learning curve. You can’t carry all of the emotional weight of their doubt, distress, insecurity, etc as they round that curve, no matter how much you may want to. They need close confidants that they are comfortable being vulnerable with to go to when they’re struggling or need advice. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for codependency, and that can tank ANY relationship - not just a polyamorous one!
     
  • How they speak about past partners. This is a HUGE red flag for me. It’s perfectly normal to discuss past partnerships while getting to know one another. But if you notice a trend of shit-talking all of their exes, well, don’t assume that you’ll be the exception.
     
  • They lack self-control. Polyamory is a terrible replacement for self-control. While being able to date multiple people at a time gives you more freedom, you still have to control yourself and exercise reasonable caution. In fact, you arguably have to control yourself even more because there are more people involved. Which means that more people get hurt when you mess up. Credit: Poly.Land
     
  • Lack of education about and exposure to the non-monogamy community. If people are interested in non-monogamy, they should first do as much “homework” as possible before dipping their toes in the dating scene. If you meet someone showing fervent interest in being polyamorous while also admitting that they haven’t read any books, attended any workshops, or listened to any podcasts on the subject - nor have they acquired any non-monogamous friends - there’s little to indicate that they’re taking this relationship structure transition seriously.
     
  • Impracticality. Often we get so caught up in giddy throes of NRE (New Relationship Energy) with a beau that one or both of you ignore the base impracticality of a sustainable relationship. If you meet someone where the electricity is palpable amidst undeniable incompatibilities - strongly differing views on sexual health practices, one or both of you already possessing full “partner plates”, immediate hostility towards you from their other partner(s) - it’s better to admit that the relationship may be an illogical one (regardless of how strongly they may feel otherwise).
     
  • Frequent, unpredictable emotional ups and downs. This could be a personality characteristic, or a symptom of an undiagnosed and/or untreated mental health issue. Either way, this kind of behavior can be particularly challenging when negotiating boundaries with a poly partner. What they felt comfortable and confident agreeing to one day is apt to radically change day to day, week to week, etc, and it can be exhausting to keep up with, particularly when it’s a new partner exhibiting this behavior from Day 1 (as opposed to a long term partner who finds themselves suddenly struggling in this way).
     
  • They shame you. At all. About your sexual orientation, gender identity, style of non-monogamy, appearance, personality, accent, clothing, where you live, predilection for tropical birds, whatever. Tell them to fuck off and exit immediately with your head held high, all the while with the knowledge that you just saved yourself a ton of time and emotional labor!
     
  • They want to “experiment”. Just, no.
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What are different "models" of living a poly(amorous) life?

What are different "models" of living a poly(amorous) life?

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Think of non-monogamy as an umbrella, and underneath the umbrella are the many “genres” of non-monogamy. These genres encompass both non-monogamous identities and non-monogamous lifestyles.

For the purpose of this column, an example of a non-monogamous identity might be “polyamorous”, with the person in question having reached an absolute certainty that they are not capable of monogamy - that they are “wired” this way. In this case, the politics of non-monogamy may permeate multiple areas of their life, and the same as when they self-identify as “transgender” or “heterosexual” when introducing themselves, they may very well include the identifier “polyamorous” on the same level as gender identity and sexual orientation. Polyamorous people tend to develop committed, multifaceted, long term relationships with multiple partners concurrently.

An example of a non-monogamous lifestyle might be “swinging”, which I also refer to as “situational” or “destination” non-monogamy. Here, the couple in question lives a mostly monogamous existence only to explore non-monogamy on rare occasions - and typically with the other partner present - at special events. These events can range from swingers’ themed play parties in dungeons, clubs, or private residences, to swingers’ conventions, to mass swinger “sex vacations” in tropical islands. Additionally, there’s a thriving social element to swinging that isn’t necessary present in other forms of non-monogamy - more of a party atmosphere - and swingers aren’t prone to developing the same kind of consistent, connective romantic bonds with their play partners as folks do in other non-monogamy styles.

New alternative relationship structures - as well as new language used to describe them - are popping up left and right, so please don’t take my personal umbrella as the permanent end-all-be-all of categorical libraries! That being said, here’s a list of popular models originally compiled by the lovely organizers of Polyamory Toronto (and slightly edited by yours’ truly!):

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  • Monogamish: Coined by advice columnist Dan Savage. Mostly monogamous with some wiggle room when it comes to the terms of their fidelity. Different from swinging. I.e. Couples may agree to inviting a mutually agreed upon third into their bedroom on occasion, or make negotiations allowing for individual play partners - but only while one partner is away on business (aka the “100 mile rule”), etc.
     

  • Open Relationships: “Open” can be described in 3 ways.
    1) open versus closed poly - where people are or aren’t able to date others
    2) open versus closed relationships - the difference between monogamous and non-monogamous
    3) open sexually and/or emotionally - encapsulates a wide variety of non-monogamous structures
     

  • Polyamory: More than one committed relationship
     

  • Egalitarian Polyamory: Lack of hierarchy, upholds autonomy of all participants. Egalitarian polyamory is more closely associated with values, subcultures and ideologies that favor individual freedoms and equality in sexual matters
     

  • Hierarchical Polyamory: The recognition of a primary relationship which receives conscious privilege over other relationships, where hard decisions may defer to the needs of the primary relationship (i.e. who gets brought home to meet the family, who is listed as emergency contact, who shares living space with the person in question, etc). Folks in this style typically describe having “secondary” and/or “tertiary” partnerships in addition.
     

  • Solo-Poly: More than one committed relationship with no hierarchy or primaries assigned
     

  • Relationship Anarchy: Coined by Andie Nordgren. The practice of forming relationships of all types (sexual, romantic, platonic, familial) which are not bound by societal norms or rules but rather focus on what the people involved mutually agree on. There need not be a formal distinction or importance between sexual, romantic or platonic relationships.
     

  • Sensual Friendship/Passionate Friendship: A nonsexual relationship that does include intense emotional attraction based on love
     

  • Poly Affectionate: The desire for affection with more than one partner without sexual involvement. Also includes “cuddle sluts”.
     

  • Mono-Poly Relationships - where one partner is monogamous and one partner is polyamorous. Works particularly well for partners with vastly differing libidos, for partners where one individual may have one or multiple disabilities, for kinky partners in a cuckolding arrangement, etc.
     

  • Polygamy: The practice of taking more than one spouse
     

  • Polygyny: The specific practice of one man taking more than one wife
     

  • Polyandry: The specific practice of one woman taking more than husband
     

  • Kinky Play Parties: Parties organized for BDSM play, not necessarily sexual. Partner pairing is usually based on matching skill sets of interest. I.e. person looking to be spanked paired with person willing to spank. Could also involve/include being part of a rope family.
     

  • Sexual Play Parties: Having sex in a private or public party with someone who may not be your committed partner. Could also include attending and/or participating in activity in sex clubs/bathhouses.
     

  • Commerce: Paying for emotional or sexual services, i.e. Purchasing the time of an adult-aged, consenting sexual surrogate or sex worker.
     

  • Closed Group Swinging: A group of people who swing together but not with others outside of the group. Friendships are valued
     

  • Hard Swap Swinging: Having sex with someone other than one’s partner
     

  • Soft Swap Swinging: Having sex with one’s partner in the same room as others
     

  • Poly Fidelity: A closed relationship between three or more people where no dating outside of the group occurs
     

  • Triad: A relationship between three people
     

  • Quad: A relationship between four people
     

  • Pack/Poly Network/Poly Tribe/Polycule: All ways to describe a close network of people connected in one form or another i.e. romantic relationships, friendships, metamours or all of the above
     

  • Unicorns: A single queer or bisexual person (usually a cisgender female) who interacts with an established (usually cisgender male/female) couple
     

  • Friends With Benefits/Erotic Friendships: Friends who introduce sex into their friendship but do not wish to escalate the relationship
     

  • No Strings Attached: Sex without ongoing commitment to continue the arrangement or escalate the relationship
     

  • Casual Sex: Sex sometimes with an ongoing commitment to continue the arrangement with an agreement not to escalate the relationship
     

  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell - An agreement to have a non-monogamous relationship without discussing the particulars. Difficult to ensure consent is involved. For this reason - among numerous others - I highly advise against such arrangements.

"If my partner and I date other people, will we desire each other less?"

Welcome to the VERY FIRST video column feat. REID MIHALKO!

"If living in an open relationship where there are two people and they're okay to date other people outside of their main pair, do they eventually end up having less, and less, and LESS sex with each other?"

*TO SKIP ALL THE SOCIALIZING AND GO DIRECTLY TO THE QUESTION, FAST FORWARD TO THE 8:00 MARK!*

Reid Mihalko
@ReidAboutSex
ReidAboutSex.com
SexGeekSummerCamp.com
R10x.com

Allison Moon
@HeyAllieMoon
GirlSex101.com
TalesOfThePack.com

My partner is pushing me towards non-monogamy before I'm ready. What do I do?

My partner & I are working on moving from a monogamish structured relationship to a more non-monogamous structure, but in our talks, my partner has mentioned feeling ready for this move for a long while & is frustrated with my moving slow to figure out how to make it work for me as well. He wants very few boundaries, is ready to be open as of like last month, & feels fulfilled knowing we love each other & live together & anything beyond that he says makes him feel like I am controlling his sexuality/autonomy - any advice for how to move forward together rather than feeling like I am expected to do the work to get his needs met while forgoing my own? Am I being unreasonable asking for more than his love & cohabitation?

This week I was supposed to be in New Orleans on vacation, and although I canceled that trip, the vacation mindset is much more difficult to beat. Here to help hold me accountable and lend a varied perspective to this week’s column is my partner of three and a half years, Justin! Justin is a white genderqueer trans hottie in their thirties, and this is his first time (and hopefully not his last time!) consulting on “I Am Poly & So Can You”.

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Justin: I’ve definitely been in the position of the partner wanting to “move things along” when it comes to opening up, but my behavior differed from the person in question’s. For me, I maintained a core of patience and prioritized making sure my partner was okay before I moved forward. I craved meeting someone new, experiencing and expressing affection, and then wanting to share all that with my partner. To have my partner’s blessing. It wouldn’t have felt right to move forward without knowing that my partner was totally ready.

Andre: I know that to be true. It was really challenging for me a year and a half, two years ago when we were negotiating you dating others for the first time, and I really appreciate the compassion that you showed throughout. That all being said, in your most challenging moments, did you ever struggle with more...frustrating thoughts that you hesitated sharing with me? Promise I won’t hold them against you, haha.

Justin: Sometimes I would get upset, and a little sad that I couldn’t experience what I wanted to WHEN I wanted to. I would feel jealous when I saw you with some of your partners, as well as when I encountered other poly arrangements where the boundaries were more relaxed. Made me wish things could be different. However, again, my main priority was for our future - I never wanted us to not be okay. That feeling ensured I didn’t “take it out” on you.

Andre: I’m curious, reader, what “monogamish” looked like for you and your partner. Sometimes that can be “makeout passes” with other folks when either of you are out solo, and sometimes that can mean that you and your partner play with others, but ONLY together. I wonder how comfortable you were in that arrangement, compared to the negotiations that your partner is trying to accelerate now. I wonder how much you feel like you evolved and benefitted. Regardless, it sounds like your partner is laying the pressure and expediency to open up further on thick, and that isn’t okay.

There’s a good chance that this false sense of urgency is being motivated by your partner’s desire for one person in particular. Both Justin and I agree that emotions have run higher in the past when one of us feels like we’re having a “moment” with someone else, and fear that the “moment” will pass while we wait for our partner’s deliberation. We panic. That can make us act less honorably with our partner in terms of patience, kindness, and respect. One question you may want to ask your partner is whether or not they have “someone in mind” who they’re interested in pursuing; could give you added insight into their [annoying] sense of immediacy.

Now, it’s time for me to stop being so nice to your partner:

Again, there are so many things I wish I knew here! How long you’ve been together, whether you started out monogamous and then successfully transitioned to monogamish, if either of you have ever been fully non-monogamous before, etc.

But here’s what I do know.

First, wielding the phrase “I’ve been ready for this for a long time” as a weapon against your partner is bullshit. Humans are not supernatural beings; we can’t read minds, and if your partner pushed that part of themselves down for a long period of time before “bursting” and finally communicating it to you, that’s on them. You are in no way responsible for their past months or years of self-induced silence.

Second, every single relationship on the planet has boundaries built into it, regardless of how “closed” or “open” those boundaries are. Boundaries are healthy, and respecting them builds trust between all parties involved. Boundaries also can - and should - be revisited frequently to ensure that everyone is still on the same page. They are not immutable, and they certainly are not by definition “restricting someone’s autonomy”. If someone agrees to a boundary that feels that way, then that boundary does not work for them, plain and simple. While your partner is being honest about that, they’re doing it in a way that seems unnecessarily cruel, while reiterating that the only possible option is for you to “get over” your “hang-ups”.

Guess what? You can also break it off with them. That’s an undeniably viable option.

I hear that you’re cohabitating, and that definitely makes even taking temporary space more challenging. But it’s something that you should start thinking seriously about. Start working out the logistics in your head now, so that if you feel it necessary to drop the guillotine, you don’t feel unprepared.

Meanwhile, if you want to keep working through this, I have a few resources for you:

If you and your partner have been together for two years or more, I would say that it’s worth trying couples’ counseling. Not sure where you’re living/how accessible non-monog-savvy therapists are in your area, but if you’re in the Bay Area, look up Bay Area Open Minds.

Justin: Oh my god, I never knew how to create a hyperlink!

Andre: Help me, reader. Help me.

Otherwise I’d visit Psychology Today , type in your zip code and search for therapists who specialize in “relationship issues”, “sex therapy”, and/or “LGBT issues”. Once you have a short list, call the offices personally and ask if the professional has experience counseling non-monogamous couples. That will give you the best shot at finding someone capable and competent, and the emphasis at first should be on building better communication and listening strategies between you and your partner so that you can have respectful, engaged, vulnerable, two-sided conversations with one another.

I also recommend picking up the book “The Jealousy Workbook” which features exercises for both individuals and couples to do together.

If your partner claims to be interested in “hurrying things along”, but then balks at the idea of formerly working on your relationship besides guilting and shaming you, then, well we’re back to you formulating your exit strategy. I wish you the best of luck either way!

Justin: What your partner needs to realize is that they’re spending the bulk of their time “sweating the small stuff” during this critical journey you two are on, when they really need to be focusing on listening to you, ensuring that you feel loved and prioritized throughout, and finding a way to meet you where you’re authentically at. And I think it can sometimes take something like almost losing your partner - or ACTUALLY losing your partner - to understand that.

How do I persuade my girlfriend and her best friend to have a threesome?

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I’m in a hetero relationship with a woman but I’m also attracted to her best friend. We are all old friends. How do I persuade them both to have a threesome with me?

You know what, reader? It’s your lucky day.

Typically I pass over questions like these without a second glance. The real tragedy is in the frequency with which this genre of question gets submitted. To me. By men who obviously have no familiarity with my body of work.

But today, reader - oh TODAY - you caught me on one of those “buy dishes at the Goodwill just so you can go home and smash them in the street” kinda Wednesdays. The kind where I’m sustaining myself on marijuana and peanut M&Ms and stockpiled photos of my dogs cuddling. The kind where I just spent thirty minutes trying to teach myself how to whistle because I had a fleeting certainty that the only way I’d make it through this night was if I acquired a new skill.

As such, let me do my best to concisely answer your question on how you persuade these two goddesses in your life to have a threesome with you:

YOU. MOTHERFUCKING. DON’T.

Personally, I have to admire you for throwing the “we are all old friends” qualifier in there, as if expecting me to pin a goddamn gold star on your chest for waiting so very patiently for these women to fuck you. That particular breed of douche levels you up from “average moron” to “entitled Reddit troll” status.

You know what the world calls “persuading a woman to have sex”, reader? RAPE.

This is why it’s so difficult for women to sustain friendships with heterosexual men. Because we spend all of this irreversible time and emotional energy vetting you to determine your authenticity, your trustworthiness, all the while hoping to high heaven that you won’t be like EVERY OTHER MAN. Hoping that when you laugh at our jokes, or compliment our competency, or offer a shoulder to lean on, it’s not because you’re imagining us with your dick in our mouth. Hoping that when you finally come on to us - as we know you inevitably will - that when we decline your advances, that you won’t cry “friend zone”. Or harass us. Or kill us.

But you know, reader, maybe I’m being just a tad too harsh. It’s not ENTIRELY your fault. Throughout mainstream film and television history it’s not been at all unusual to consume the stereotypical rom com “woman suddenly falls for her male best friend that she’s known forever but only recently realized he was her soulmate” plotline. At the risk of shattering your entire perception of the world and your role in it, I’m here to tell you that this is the rarest of phenomenons. Truly. It hardly ever happens.

So why are cultural scripts like that so pervasive in our society? Because the vast majority of mainstream film and television is written, directed, and produced by heterosexual men. And guess who their target demographic is? Heterosexual men. Think of it as porn, but for your heart. The “devoted best buddy who sticks it out long enough to land the girl” archetype is one that most men find irresistibly appealing, and then are somehow unable to separate that entertainment from the reality of the world. Why? You seem to have no trouble understanding the fact that Keanu Reaves is not ACTUALLY John Wick, or that there isn't actually an entire underground population of Marvel mutants inhabiting the planet. The end result is men feeling entitled to that internalized version of “happily ever after” - entitled to WOMEN - and that entitlement is not only obnoxious and toxic, but highly contagious.

Fuck, I’m tired. This is really good weed. I’ll wrap it up now.

Be better, reader. Be SO much better. No, I’m not going to tell you “how”. The Internet is at your fingertips, and I charge hourly for that. Pray that you turn yourself around and start making reparations for your asshattery before your girlfriend - AND her friend - realize what a tool you are. Although I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I’m rooting for the femmes. Forever and always.

Ps. Men are trash.

Pps. To my loyal, feminist fan base, I promise I’ll get a “real” column up here just as soon as I stop crawling out of my skin.

Help! I think my boyfriend's husband is ghosting me!

Hi Andre! I'll try to keep this as short as possible! I've been in open relationships for a while but am new to poly. I am a gay man, have a husband, and two unconnected boyfriends. With one of the boyfriends, it started as me dating both he and his husband, but over time the husband has become less sexually interested in me; when I asked what was going on, his response was that "nothing is wrong." They have another boy that they are both dating, and I'm finding myself becoming resentful. Feeling slightly replaced by the new throuple, but mostly upset that the non-relationship between me and the husband is impacting my relationship with his other half, i.e. if the 4 of us are out together, I sometimes feel excluded and/or awkward having to be completely not-intimate with the husband. I don't know how to move forward and get to a place where I am not jealous or, frankly, how I can interact with his husband without it being forced/awkward. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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I recently connected with one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met in my life. I walked away from our time together thinking how hard I’d fall for her if only my relationship configuration could fit yet another glorious being into it. At the same time, I marveled at my own heart’s capacity. Here I was actively in love with three humans - and maintaining a strong, loving, remote connection with a fourth - and yet I could so easily see myself expanding to include this woman. Chuckling to myself, I wondered aloud, “When does it stop? Where IS my heart’s limit?”

You remind me of me, dear reader. You have a husband and two boyfriends, one of whom’s husbands you're also involved with. You’re swimming in love’s excess, and that isn’t to say you should feel ashamed of yourself by any means. However, before I dive into my advice, I want you to sit with that for a minute. Your life is obviously so full and vibrant, and often when we have as many partnerships as you and I do, we’re running around from person to person and place to place so much that we forget to pause and be grateful. Soak up the gratitude for this family you’ve created. Feels awesome, doesn’t it? Alright, let’s get rolling!

For ease’s sake, I’m going to give my own names to each party: your husband is Bill, the boyfriend in question is Alex, and HIS husband’s name is Charlie.

It sounds as though you’ve been “ghosted” by Charlie, which is its own problem in and of itself. The practice of ghosting - ie the act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date - is, frankly, insulting and disrespectful. The only allowances I make for it are if:

  • You’re under the age of 21, and/or
  • The person doing the ghosting is leaving an abusive relationship, and feeling as though the abrupt cessation is the only way they can escape their abuser’s manipulation.

    Assuming neither of those are applicable in your case, it sounds like Charlie is at least ghosting you sexually, if not in a more holistic way. Ghosting sucks the most because it feels as though you're going through a break-up that only one of you signed off on. The silver lining? Even if things don't end up working out with Charlie, this will prove to have been the most difficult transition period. Everything will feel "easier" moving forward.

    Another silver lining? All of this could just be poorly-communicated New Relationship Energy (NRE) that Charlie is experiencing, perhaps for the very first time. A smart and succinct description of NRE can be found here. As the author states, the greatest test of many relationships is the transition OUT of the NRE phase. If you and Charlie can work through this period, it will forge an even stronger and more stable connection between the two of you.

If I were you, I would give Alex a heads-up that you’re having a very challenging time sharing space with Charlie at the moment because of his lack of communication around this issue. Let him know that you’ll be initiating a conversation with Charlie to hash it out, and in the meantime, you’d appreciate it if he - Alex - wouldn’t bring up the new boy that they’re now dating when around you as it’s painful for you to hear about, particularly while there is still a lack of transparency around your and Charlie’s situation. Also, if you haven’t filled your husband in on all of this already, now would be an excellent time to do so.

Then, initiate the conversation with Charlie. Make sure it’s more than a coffee date, and that you reserve a good 2-3 hours in a private setting. Tell him what you told me - how difficult this has been for you, how you were owed a more detailed, honest, and empathetic conversation with him prior to this stage you're now in. Remind him how much you care for him, are sexually attracted to him, and how much you love seeing him happy. Do your research on NRE and introduce the term to him; see if it resonates, then work together to come to an agreement around a few different ways that he can still be over the moon for his new boy while also acknowledging, reassuring and giving attention to YOU. It’d also be a good idea to make a date with your husband and/or your OTHER boyfriend for immediately after the conversation, just in case it goes south and leaves you feeling vulnerable and in need of secure, stable, loving support.

Best of luck to you. And remember: GRATITUDE.

Get Your Tickets NOW for the FIRST EVER "I Am Poly...LIVE!" Event!

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Guys, I am SO FUCKING EXCITED! This is my first LIVE event, and I'm bringing two other local experts on stage alongside myself to answer YOUR NON-MONOGAMY QUESTIONS in real time!

Doors at 7:30p / Panel starts at 8:00p
Tickets: $30/person or $50 per couple
ADVANCE TICKETING ONLY! There are a limited number of seats at this venue, so get yours' STAT!
Ticketing Link: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3111858
Accessibility Tickets: Please email Andre personally for information on discounted tickets at ms.andre.shakti@gmail.com. This event IS wheelchair accessible!
A limited supply of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be served at no cost for attendees. Attendees are also welcome to BYOB. Please drink responsibly! We reserve the right to remove anyone from the event who we feel has imbibed to an unsafe level. This event is 21+.

......

Meet the Panelists!

Andre Shakti

Andre Shakti is a journalist, educator, performer, activist, and professional slut living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is devoted to normalizing alternative desires, de-stigmatizing sex workers and their clients, and not taking herself too seriously. Andre wrestles mediocre white men into submission and writes about sex work, queerness and non-monogamy for Cosmopolitan, Rewire, Kinkly, Thrillist, MEL, Vice, Autostraddle, and more. Andre is the reigning “polyamory pundit” at her non-monogamy advice column, “I Am Poly & So Can You!”, which you can visit — and submit questions to! — via IAmPoly.net. Visit her on Twitter @andreshakti, on FB as Andre Shakti, and as a pleasure professional on the new inclusive educational platform O.School.

Andre graduated cum laude from Towson University in Maryland with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and LGBT Studies in 2010. She worked in HIV risk assessment, harm reduction education, and community activism in Baltimore from 2008-2011, studied at San Francisco State University’s National Sexuality Resource Center (NSRC) in 2010, and graduated from San Francisco Sex Information (SFSI)’s Sex Educator Training in Fall 2013. She’s held educator and sales associate positions at sex-positive adult boutiques Sugar (Baltimore, MD) and Feelmore510 (Oakland, CA), and is one of the founding crew members of Atlanta’s Sex Down South Conference in Atlanta, GA. Andre has taught classes, moderated panels, and filmed instructional clips for Dark Odyssey, Catalyst Con, Sugar, The Garden, PassionateU, Kink Academy, Feelmore510, Towson University, Kink University, University of Maryland, UC Berkeley, She Bop, The Feminist Porn Conference, International Ms Leather, Sex Down South, Harvard University, California College of the Arts, and many more.

Dr. Liz Powell

Dr. Liz believes that great sex can change the world. She is on a mission to help you have more meaningful, pleasurable relationships in life and work, as well as the bedroom. She’s a coach and licensed psychologist (CA 27871) helping couples and singles develop self-confidence and authenticity in their relationships, whether conventional or non-traditional. Dr. Liz has made multiple media appearances, including as a co-host as on the Life on the Swingset podcast and on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio show Ideas. As a sex educator, Dr. Liz has spoken on many stages internationally including the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists Annual Conference, CatalystCon, and the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit. Dr Liz believes that being confident in who you are is the gateway to great relationships and great sex - and great sex, according to Dr. Liz, can change the world. Learn more about Dr. Liz at sexpositivepsych.com.

Jasper Stone

Jasper is a San Francisco native. Long since fascinated with nuisances of sexuality, he joined the adult industry when he was 19. From there his interest in exploring the depth of the human sexual experience expanded, leading to him founding the Mango Dome, a venue for sex-positive education, in 2014. In 2016 he became a part of the leadership team for the Organ House, a series of play parties designed to spread enthusiastic consent culture. He also recently joined the leadership team of the OrgyDome at Burning Man, the world’s largest play party. As an openly bisexual man - and a sex worker! - he has devoted much of his focus to the empowerment and normalization of non-monogamy and traditionally alternative sexuality.

theorganhouse.org www.andthentheresonlylove.com themangodome.com https://twitter.com/jasperxxxstone

Help! I fell in love with someone whose partner isn't cut out for polyamory!

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I fell in love with someone whose partner doesn't seem cut out for polyamory. The partner has been very much up for an open relationship, but now that he's encountered his own jealousy he forbids his partner (my lover) to let feelings enter the equation. He also doesn't talk about his problems with his partner or anyone else. We're in love but this guy is his life partner and neither of us wants to upset him. How can I get along with my metamour?

Oh friend, dear one, I’m not going to have good news for you. Brace yourself? Trigger warning? Whatever modern social construct of “beware” you choose to subscribe to. Here are some solid poly “rules of thumb” specific to your situation:

When in a “V” formation, the pre-existing couple needs to be prioritized. Right now, your lover is at the bottom of the “V”; you and his life partner are the two “tips”, and, in short, the relationship between him and his life partner needs to be 100% solid before he enters into another physical and/or emotional relationship with a third party. There’s the “he was there first” camp,  but in my opinion, your relationship with your lover doesn’t stand a chance at success or sustainability until he can get on grounded footing with his pre existing partner.

When in ANY poly configuration with more than two folks, it’s a good idea to move as slowly as the person who is having the most difficulty adjusting...within reason. Otherwise, said person runs the risk of feeling rushed, backed into a corner, and/or like their feelings are no longer a priority. That being said, it’s a good idea to initiate a “family meeting” early on to determine exactly how long this purgatory-adjustment period is going to last. You don’t want to put the ball entirely into one person’s court, and then find yourselves still stuck in the same predicament ten months down the road. Schedule check-ins either every two weeks or once a month, and try to reach a mutually-consenting agreement to allow for a bit of relationship progress/evolution after each check-in - while still letting the struggling person largely lead the discussion. It can be a slow process, but the payoff is in the unparalleled trust and connectivity that will be built throughout; again, lending to the success and sustainability of your relationship with your lover.

Whether or not you and your lover end up together, he needs to learn from this. It’s never a good idea to enter into non-monogamy when one half of the OG monogamous equation is hesitant, reluctant, in a period of destabilization, etc. Now, it is possible that your lover’s boyfriend THOUGHT he could handle non-monogamy, and “sold” his viewpoints to your lover as such before doing a complete 180 after experiencing jealousy for the first time. Possible, but not likely. A more likely scenario is that your lover was privy to “warning signs” from his partner that he chose to ignore because you were so shiny and new and attractive to him, and he just decided to “hope for the best”. Alos, poly isn’t just something that you hold your breath and plunge into. When done ethically and intentionally, it involves a massive amount of conversation, negotiation, education (books, lectures, podcasts), and exposure to non-monog communities (hanging out with non-monog friends, finding discussion groups, going to non-sexual meet-ups), all BEFORE taking on additional partners. It’s a lot of labor! If your lover and his partner didn’t initiate and follow through with that labor prior to your introduction, then it’s no wonder the partner is backpedaling!

“Feelings” rules never fucking work and I hate them and they should die. Sorry, I’m beginning to unravel a bit in the wee hours of the morning - bear with me! I’m fully aware that some people are going to disagree with me on this, and that’s perfectly fine. This column is a literal platform for my opinion, after all. With that, it’s my opinion that while physical intimacy can be finite, emotional intimacy can not. Emotions are unpredictable, and are almost impossible to stymie when you’re constantly connecting physically. That’s just the way in which most hearts and minds work. To allow your partner a physical connection with someone while forbidding them from developing an emotional connection is to literally set everyone involved up for failure. It’s an unreasonable expectation, plain and simple, and your lover should have never agreed to it in the first place, PARTICULARLY in the earliest stages of “trying on” non-monogamy.

So, reader, in conclusion: Show this column to your lover, then take a step back and allow your lover the space and time to reassure and re-prioritize his partner (this includes digital space and time in addition to the physical). If I were them, I’d rewind back to before you came into the picture. I’d find a non-monogamy-savvy therapist and schedule 3-6 sessions to help them reconnect and to facilitate honest and open communication between them. I’d also initiate the “education” and “exposure” components of familiarizing themselves with polyamory community and practices. After a few months of this, if things are genuinely going well, your lover can reopen the lines of communication between you two, and you can start building a happier, healthier relationship. Best of luck!