Thursday, January 31, 2013

Theories of Love

I can't remember how and why this idea got brought to my attention (maybe it was the Poly Forum), but I find it so thought-provoking: defining love and finding different ways of conceptualizing it. In one of the articles I stumbled upon (and I can't find it now), the author mentions that there are x number of words for snow in different Eskimo languages, and so of course it makes sense we get confused when we only have one word (love) to describe a vast array of feelings toward others. 

I know for myself, I use the word love in relation to: my parents and sister and other family members, my primary partner, really close platonic friends, other partners that I feel especially connected to (and I may or may not have romantic feelings as well for those other partners), our pup, and my favorites (weather, movies, books, music, colors, scenery, activities, hobbies, clothes, etc), as well as many other things I am sure. When I took German in high school and college, I recall all of my teachers discussing with my classes that in Germany, you simply do not use the word "love" ("liebe") in reference to anything other than people. To convey how much you dig an inanimate object, you use the various words for "like." I remember that struck me, since I grew up using the word love for everything that struck my fancy. For me, the word love encompasses a wide continuum of positive, caring, and loving feelings toward something or someone.

So, I decided to investigate popular ways within psychology of thinking about love. This was my favorite article, and since it did such an awesome job of summarizing the main ideas, I wanted to just include it here:

"My Favorite Unromantic Theories of Love

Do psychological theories of love leave something to be desired?

Why are we drawn to certain people and not others? What makes us fall in love–and stay in love? Poets delve into the mystery of love with beautiful sonnets, musicians seek to capture its subtle essence in song, and many others feel that their love is divinely inspired. Social and personality psychologists, on the other hand, break love down into simple shapes, colors, and equations, the most popular of which are described below. These theories may seem to reduce love to something more mundane and unexciting, but they also have a certain elegance of their own. 

1. The love triangle. According to Robert Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love (2004), love consists of three components, intimacy (emotional closeness), passion (sexual and romantic attraction), and commitment. The ideal form of love for a romantic couple (Consummate love) involves all three components, but it is not easy to maintain, as the passionate spark tends to fade over time. Sternberg also describes six other combinations. Romantic love involves intimacy and passion without commitment and is more common in the teenage and young adult years. Companionate love involves intimacy and commitment without passion and is typical of close friends, and sometimes long-term marriages. Infatuated love involves passion only and often occurs at the very beginning of a relationship. Empty love involves commitment with no intimacy or passion, as in an arranged marriage—but it may grow into other forms of love over time. Finally, Fatuous love is like getting engaged after dating for three weeks— it involves passion and commitment, but no deeper intimacy.

2. The color wheel. John Lee (1973) identified six styles of love and referred to them as the "colors of love," although they are do not correspond to actual colors. The first style, Eros, is characterized by idealization of one's partner and strong romantic feelings. Ludus is characterized by a need for excitement and a view of love as a game—research suggests that men are more likely than women to be ludic. Storge is characterized by stability and friendship, similar to Sternberg's companionate love. Pragma is characterized by practical considerations, such as looking for a "checklist" of traits. Storge and pragma are more common among women. Mania involves obsession, jealousy, and extreme ups and downs. Agape refers to selflessness and unconditional compassion. To find out your love style, you can take a test here. 
3. The mere exposure effect. This is one of the most memorable concepts from my first psychology class and is probably the most unromantic theory of all. The mere exposure effect, discovered by Robert Zajonc (1968), refers to our tendency to like things that are familiar to us—that is, those things and people that we are exposed to most often. The mere exposure effect helps to explain propinquity, the idea that one of the main determinants of interpersonal attraction is physical proximity. In one famous series of studies conducted by Leon Festinger and others (1950), the development of friendships in an apartment complex was directly related to the distance between apartments—people were more likely to become friends with neighbors who lived even just slightly closer, and those who they happened to pass more often on the way down the stairs or to the mailbox. While there may be some degree of randomness and luck in the attachments we form, this doesn't mean that relationships based on proximity are any less genuine and meaningful. But it does suggest that we might have a whole different life if we'd just happened to live on a different hall in college.
4. The clone attraction. Do opposites attract, or do birds of a feather flock together? Research suggests that the latter is more often true. People are more attracted to those who are similar to themselves in pretty much every way, ranging from personality to religious beliefs to physical appearance, and more similar couples tend to be happier. In one study, participants reported being most attracted to morphed versions of their own faces (though the interpretation of this finding is controversial). Although there are advantages to genetic diversity, there may be social and practical disadvantages. The more similar a couple looks, the easier it could be for the father to recognize if a child is not his own, which could support an evolutionary argument for attraction to physically similar others. To see the effects of similarity in action, the following website contains a slideshow of clone-like celebrity couples. (Even Heidi Klum and Seal, whose ethnic backgrounds are different, share surprisingly similar facial structure—their marriage recently ended, but it lasted longer than most celebrity couples' marriages do). You can also just open any newspaper to the nuptials page.  5. The commitment equation. How committed are you to your partner? Research suggests that it depends on three main factors: 1) how invested you are in the relationship (i.e., what you've sacrificed/costs of leaving the relationship), 2) how much you get out of the relationship, and 3) whether there are attractive alternatives. Caryl Rusbult developed the Investment Model by studying college students' relationship trajectories—in statistical analyses, these three variables emerged as the strongest unique predictors of commitment. Here is the equation: 
Commitment = investment + (rewards - costs) - attractive alternatives
The investment model helps to explain why people might stay in an abusive or unhappy relationship—there may be children involved, financial dependence, or a lack of external social support. It may also explain why people who have too many attractive alternatives available sometimes have trouble settling down. 
Although it is unlikely that any single account will fully capture what for most of us is a very personal and complex experience, the scientific study of love need not diminish its magic. If anything, it might help us love more wisely, with greater appreciation for the social, biological, and cultural forces that shape the choices we make."

The most popular theory, from what I have been able to gather, is Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love.

I find this theory quite fascinating. If you read Sternberg's ideas about "consummate love," it sounds quite idealized and "perfect," and like he places quite a value judgement on these different types of love. For example, from the Wikipedia page on the theory, it mentions that:
"Consummate love is the complete form of love, representing an ideal relationship which people strive towards. Of the seven varieties of love, consummate love is theorized to be that love associated with the “perfect couple.” According to Sternberg, these couples will continue to have great sex fifteen years or more into the relationship, they cannot imagine themselves happier over the long-term with anyone else, they overcome their few difficulties gracefully, and each delight in the relationship with one other.[7] However, Sternberg cautions that maintaining a consummate love may be even harder than achieving it. He stresses the importance of translating the components of love into action. "Without expression," he warns, "even the greatest of loves can die."[8] Thus, consummate love may not be permanent. If passion is lost over time, it may change into companionate love."
Yikes, I say. J and I talked about this, and he had the great insight that this theory seemed similar to Arianne Cohen's The Sex Diaries Project, except Cohen's work doesn't place a value judgement on the various types of relationships (dalliancing, solo, partners, lovers, aspirers, poly). It seems like if I were to mesh the Triangular Theory and Cohen's ideas, I would maybe say lovers operate primarily within romantic love and aspirers operate primarily within companionate love. Except I can't quite see where Cohen's partners would fit in the triangle. (There is no need to fit these two models together, except it was interesting to try :-) ) I am not sold on Sternberg's model simply because of the value judgement placed on consummate love as the "ideal form" for romantic partners. in addition, I think there are probably degrees of each of his types of love depending on how much of each element is present (in romantic love, for instance, perhaps one at first experiences a lot of passion with some intimacy and then perhaps it shifts to less passion and more intimacy).

However, what does resonate for me with the Triangular Theory is capturing different feelings that I might use the word "love" to capture. For instance, the love I feel for family members and close, long-time friends would probably be captured by companiate love. The love I feel for J is definitely a combination of intimacy, passion, and commitment. The love I feel for other partners may be a deep liking (based on the presence of intimacy) or some kind of romantic love (based on various combinations of intimacy and passion).

Food for thought :-)

"It is possible for two people to deeply, profoundly love each other but not be good life partners." ~Franklin Veaux

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Safer Sex

I think it's good (for myself) to check in every so often about safer sex. This post is a bit embarrassing for me to publish, but I figure other people can learn from my mistakes. Or at least have a chance to reflect on their safer sex practices and feel good about themselves. :-)

I recently posted about my hot experience at work. It was frickin' hot. But I kept that post positive and happy, because I was so excited to be sexual with a woman. What I did not include was the part of the story that read: I was not good at talking about safer sex. I was so overcome at getting to experience a stage show with a woman I was attracted to, that I skipped out on the most important rule (to me anyway) about our open relationship- talking to other partners about safer sex practices, STIs, and testing. There was not any good excuse on my part for not doing this, but the context was that it all happened really fast, and it was over and done with really fast as well (three minutes or so). To my credit, I at least visually inspected her pussy before I started to do oral, washed my hands after playing with her, and used a couple of baby wipes on my pussy. Afterwards, I went up to my lovely lady friend, and said, "You know, my boyfriend and I have an open relationship, and I really meant to talk to you about STIs before we did anything. I wanted to let you know that I was recently tested and everything came back negative." Her response: "Oh yeah, I'm good, I wouldn't have done anything if there was a concern." Which I interpreted in the moment as, 'I wouldn't have been sexual with you if I had recently tested positive for anything,' but obviously, that is not what she said.

In the future, my interaction would go something like this:
(Before playing)
"Before we play, I just wanted to talk a little bit about STIs. I was recently tested (in December) for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis and all tests came back negative. I don't use condoms with my boyfriend, but I use condoms with all other male partners. I talk to other partners about STIs and safer sex practices they use before I play with them. I haven't ever tested positive for anything in the almost 2 years J and I have been open. When were you last tested and what were you tested for? Do you have other partners? What kinds of safer sex practices do you use?"

I can attest to the fact that this kind of interaction and communication can be quite challenging; obviously, I didn't do nearly my best in communicating with my friend at work. I went up to her afterward and did not push her to explain more. Not only that, but for some reason (I think I was sort of high from this experience for a good day or two) I failed to talk about this interaction with J until a couple days after it happened. Putting my primary partner at risk is not okay with me and I am pretty darn sure I have learned my lesson. I feel like I should also mention, though, that there are different risks associated with different sexual encounters. Fingering a woman is pretty low risk on the STI risk continuum. (Here is a nice summary chart from SF City Clinic)

It seems like discussing safer sex practices with individuals in the open community is much easier than it is with individuals that you might encounter in the vanilla dating world. (And, I think simply discussing STIs and testing is itself a safer sex practice; communication is so essential.) I think because safer sex is so highly negotiated among open individuals, people are generally better at discussing it because they find it really important and have practiced talking about it. So, here is to me continuing to learn and practice. Whew.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hitachi Hiatus: Quick Update

J just listened to a recent Dr. Drew podcast. It featured Dr. Andrew Goldstein, a vulvavaginal disorders specialist. In the podcast, Dr. Goldstein discusses the fact that too much of a powerful vibrator can actually damage the clitoral nerve; the nerve can also be damaged though cycling. But Jesus, I guess my concern over my Hitachi use is warranted. If the nerve is damaged badly enough, patients are prescribed a complete sexual hiatus and nerve repairing medication for three months. I better slow down while I'm still ahead (!)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Aahhh :-)

Totally had an amazing girl-girl experience at this new club this past week. It was hot, hot, hot. Can't wait to do it again.

Mostly fingering, teensy bit of oral. My lady friend is straight, but told me she would rather "kiss a pretty girl than an ugly guy." And she was totally down to play on stage. It was so much fun! My lady-sex needs have been severely under-met lately, so this was really, really amazing. While a "girlfriend" sounds like an amazing relationship to have in my life at some point, I have been loving the development and maintenance of other emotionally satisfying relationships with other women in my life. And I love that I have some kind of access to sexual relationships (albeit work relationships) with women. Integration will be lovely to have at some point, but for now, I am happy :-)

This post is just me C e L e B r A t I nG!

Hitachi Hiatus

Oh why oh why must you be so damn good, Hitachi Magic Wand??? So good, that I must now take a hiatus from you?

I have joked around for the past few (longer?) months that I would be doomed if the power went out for an extended period of time or if I was in the woods for a month, because my Hitachi provides me an opportunity for a Hitachi orgasm. Only accessible through the use of a Hitachi, obviously. And with the necessity of a power outlet. (FYI: a Hitachi orgasm is a special kind of orgasm. Like getting shocked and having it shoot through my limbs.)

While J and I were gone over Christmas and New Years, I brought it with me. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I'm sure plenty of women travel with vibrators, dildos, etc. It was my increasing awareness that my orgasms were getting dependent on the massive vibrations that led me to decide on taking a Hitachi break.

I used to be able to get off within a minute using the Hitachi on "low." Now, it can take quite a bit longer, and sometimes it takes it being on "high" before I can come. It's like my clitoris has toughened up from all of the crazy vibes, and now it needs time to rest and soften back up. And, I was noticing that without using it during partnered or solo sex, I was finding it troublesome that it took so much more for me to orgasm. I am a little worried that I really would be doomed if I wanted to masturbate with just my hands.

I am not sure how regimented I am going to be about not using my Hitachi; in fact, I just used it a few days ago to masturbate right before work. But, at the very least, I think I am going to consider other options before immediately resorting to it like I was. (Gah, sex! Hand me my Hitachi!) '

Wish me luck. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Conflict Resolution Styles

I had this article on conflict resolution styles recommended to me, and I think it can be incredibly useful to consider what style you naturally lean toward, what styles other people naturally use, and steps for moving toward a solution. I copied and pasted the bulk of the article below. I used to be a total accommodator; I now am a solid compromiser or collaborator (I think, anyway :-) ) While this article was written for solving conflict within the workplace, I think it could be immensely useful when applied to romantic relationships (I suppose that is also what conflict is in the workplace- interpersonal conflict). (Also, I couldn't resist posting one of my absolute favorite TV clips from The Office's "Conflict Resolution" episode. It's so good, right? Note that the article below does not offer a "win-win-win" solution. Ha.)

"Understanding the Theory: Conflict Styles

In the 1970s Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann identified five main styles of dealing with conflict that vary in their degrees of cooperativeness and assertiveness. They argued that people typically have a preferred conflict resolution style. However they also noted that different styles were most useful in different situations. They developed the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) which helps you to identify which style you tend towards when conflict arises.
Thomas and Kilmann's styles are:
Competitive: People who tend towards a competitive style take a firm stand, and know what they want. They usually operate from a position of power, drawn from things like position, rank, expertise, or persuasive ability. This style can be useful when there is an emergency and a decision needs to be make fast; when the decision is unpopular; or when defending against someone who is trying to exploit the situation selfishly. However it can leave people feeling bruised, unsatisfied and resentful when used in less urgent situations.
Collaborative: People tending towards a collaborative style try to meet the needs of all people involved. These people can be highly assertive but unlike the competitor, they cooperate effectively and acknowledge that everyone is important. This style is useful when a you need to bring together a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution; when there have been previous conflicts in the group; or when the situation is too important for a simple trade-off.
Compromising: People who prefer a compromising style try to find a solution that will at least partially satisfy everyone. Everyone is expected to give up something, and the compromiser him- or herself also expects to relinquish something. Compromise is useful when the cost of conflict is higher than the cost of losing ground, when equal strength opponents are at a standstill and when there is a deadline looming.
Accommodating: This style indicates a willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of the person's own needs. The accommodator often knows when to give in to others, but can be persuaded to surrender a position even when it is not warranted. This person is not assertive but is highly cooperative. Accommodation is appropriate when the issues matter more to the other party, when peace is more valuable than winning, or when you want to be in a position to collect on this "favor" you gave. However people may not return favors, and overall this approach is unlikely to give the best outcomes.
Avoiding: People tending towards this style seek to evade the conflict entirely. This style is typified by delegating controversial decisions, accepting default decisions, and not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings. It can be appropriate when victory is impossible, when the controversy is trivial, or when someone else is in a better position to solve the problem. However in many situations this is a weak and ineffective approach to take.
Once you understand the different styles, you can use them to think about the most appropriate approach (or mixture of approaches) for the situation you're in. You can also think about your own instinctive approach, and learn how you need to change this if necessary.
Ideally you can adopt an approach that meets the situation, resolves the problem, respects people's legitimate interests, and mends damaged working relationships.

Understanding The Theory: The "Interest-Based Relational Approach"

The second theory is commonly referred to as the "Interest-Based Relational (IBR) Approach". This type of conflict resolution respects individual differences while helping people avoid becoming too entrenched in a fixed position.
In resolving conflict using this approach, you follow these rules:
  • Make sure that good relationships are the first priority: As far as possible, make sure that you treat the other calmly and that you try to build mutual respect. Do your best to be courteous to one-another and remain constructive under pressure.
  • Keep people and problems separate: Recognize that in many cases the other person is not just "being difficult" – real and valid differences can lie behind conflictive positions. By separating the problem from the person, real issues can be debated without damaging working relationships.
  • Pay attention to the interests that are being presented: By listening carefully you'll most-likely understand why the person is adopting his or her position.
  • Listen first; talk second: To solve a problem effectively you have to understand where the other person is coming from before defending your own position.
  • Set out the "Facts": Agree and establish the objective, observable elements that will have an impact on the decision.
  • Explore options together: Be open to the idea that a third position may exist, and that you can get to this idea jointly.
By following these rules, you can often keep contentious discussions positive and constructive. This helps to prevent the antagonism and dislike which so-often causes conflict to spin out of control.

Using the Tool: A Conflict Resolution Process

Based on these approaches, a starting point for dealing with conflict is to identify the overriding conflict style employed by yourself, your team or your organization.
Over time, people's conflict management styles tend to mesh, and a "right" way to solve conflict emerges. It's good to recognize when this style can be used effectively, however make sure that people understand that different styles may suit different situations.
Look at the circumstances, and think about the style that may be appropriate.
Then use the process below to resolve the conflict:

Step One: Set the Scene

If appropriate to the situation, agree the rules of the IBR Approach (or at least consider using the approach yourself.) Make sure that people understand that the conflict may be a mutual problem, which may be best resolved through discussion and negotiation rather than through raw aggression.
If you are involved in the conflict, emphasize the fact that you are presenting your perception of the problem. Use active listening skills to ensure you hear and understand other's positions and perceptions.
  • Restate.
  • Paraphrase.
  • Summarize.
And make sure that when you talk, you're using an adult, assertive approach rather than a submissive or aggressive style.

Step Two: Gather Information

Here you are trying to get to the underlying interests, needs, and concerns. Ask for the other person's viewpoint and confirm that you respect his or her opinion and need his or her cooperation to solve the problem.
Try to understand his or her motivations and goals, and see how your actions may be affecting these.
Also, try to understand the conflict in objective terms: Is it affecting work performance? damaging the delivery to the client? disrupting team work? hampering decision-making? or so on. Be sure to focus on work issues and leave personalities out of the discussion.
  • Listen with empathy and see the conflict from the other person's point of view.
  • Identify issues clearly and concisely.
  • Use "I" statements.
  • Remain flexible.
  • Clarify feelings.

Step Three: Agree the Problem

This sounds like an obvious step, but often different underlying needs, interests and goals can cause people to perceive problems very differently. You'll need to agree the problems that you are trying to solve before you'll find a mutually acceptable solution.
Sometimes different people will see different but interlocking problems – if you can't reach a common perception of the problem, then at the very least, you need to understand what the other person sees as the problem.

Step Four: Brainstorm Possible Solutions

If everyone is going to feel satisfied with the resolution, it will help if everyone has had fair input in generating solutions. Brainstorm possible solutions, and be open to all ideas, including ones you never considered before.

Step Five: Negotiate a Solution

By this stage, the conflict may be resolved: Both sides may better understand the position of the other, and a mutually satisfactory solution may be clear to all.
However you may also have uncovered real differences between your positions. This is where a technique like win-win negotiation can be useful to find a solution that, at least to some extent, satisfies everyone.
There are three guiding principles here: Be Calm, Be Patient, Have Respect."

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Compersion Technique

I saw my new friend today for a second date, and we spent another solid chunk of time just talking, comforting each other over various challenges in our lives while eating breakfast, and holding hands. It was really lovely. 

She said one thing that was really helpful for me. She has been in poly relationships for the past seven years, and said that her technique for feeling compersion and letting go of jealousy was this:

Imagine feeling happy for your partner for as long as you can possibly feel it (with regards to a situation that normally causes feelings of jealousy, envy, discomfort, etc). It may only be 3 seconds at first that you genuinely feel happy. Continually and gently push on that boundary of that feeling until you can feel that happiness for your partner for longer periods of time (10 minutes, an hour, etc; this process sounds like a very meditative practice to me). Eventually, happiness will be all that is left. (I think this sounds almost too simple, but why make a difficult internal process more challenging than it needs to be?) This practice reminds me a lot of Anapol's suggestion of learning to replace feelings of jealousy with feelings of compersion, so that you are replacing an old system with a new one.

I asked my friend how long it took her for her to feel compersion consistently and in a more complete sense, how long it took for that work to have an effect, how long before jealousy was a "funny" emotion to experience. She said about a year and a half.

It is really amazing to talk to people who have practiced polyamory so much longer than me because they can talk about their own difficult times with perspective; they are no longer in the thick of letting go of and reframing societal messages and norms around monogamy, possessiveness, and jealousy. They have moved past it. Knowing that this is possible is really empowering. I know people, like J, who have come into polyamory very naturally and find little difficulty in confronting jealousy, and I think this journey is its own unique and amazing thing to witness. Meeting this women, though, and hearing about how she, too, had a really difficult time with jealousy and now does not is really empowering for me to hear about.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"He's just not asking for that much"

I met a lovely friend the other day for a drink, and she and I talked all about our individual journeys into the open and poly communities. She was wonderful to talk to, and I feel so lucky to have her a part of my sexy friend community!

One thing she said near the end of our conversation was completely heart-warming and touching. She was explaining her own struggle with finding out that her boyfriend identifies as poly, and after a month of being angry and confused, realized "He's just not asking for that much. He's just asking not to cheat on me." For some reason, that line almost brought tears to my eyes. I think it was the simplicity and boldness. The reminder that we choose how to live our lives. We can choose to adjust expectations or we can choose something else. We can choose to practice inquiry and reflection and we can choose to grow. And it was the reminder that loving others is an amazing thing, and really, what is harmful about that? (My internal answer: simply nothing)

He's not asking for that much. He just wants to love other people in the way that feels natural to him. He just wants to love me. He just wants to be honest. He just wants to live an intentional life. He just wants to have a healthy and happy relationship with me. 

Thank you, A, for being so amazing and fun to talk to. 

I <3 sexy friends.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Romance: Quick Update

I talked with one of my closest friends last night, and she and I talked about something that has been on my mind but I didn't include it in my previous post. She talked about she and her boyfriend have also had lengthy conversations about the romance, including the lack of it, in their relationship. And she mentioned that she has started appreciating daily stuff more- when he cleans up the apartment or makes dinner. Which reminded me of something that J said the other night, which was that he had felt romantic toward me all day while he went grocery shopping and made a really amazing dinner.

Which also reminds me of different "love languages"- touch, verbal, actions, etc. I am definitely a "touch" person by instinct, while I know J is more of an "action" person. It's learning to recognize how we express love and devotion in our own ways, and appreciating that expression even if it's not something that innately speaks to us.

And, we received a really amazing email from our sister-in-law who read my first post. She expressed exactly the concept above, and encouraged me to reframe and redefine "romance." I think redefining the concept is really important so that I can continually recognize the "romantic" actions that J engages in (cleaning the apartment, watering the plants, cutting our dog's hair, grocery shopping, etc). Redefining romance to include these things makes my "romantic" life feel a lot more full than it did, and also makes the thing that I feel is lacking (romantic and sensual touch) feel like less of a big deal (still really important to me, but a more manageable deal).

Thank you friends and family for supporting us!! It makes struggling feel a whole lot less alienating and it gives me much-needed perspective.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Today at work I let a customer touch me during a private dance. I've allowed this before even though it is technically against my club's rules and could be considered prostitution. (okay, yeah, yikes)

Why have I allowed this? I think it's related to something that J and I have been working on. I had this epiphany at work once I got scolded by the bartender that the touching took place.

I have a desire for more romance in my life. Candles, music, caressing, lots of eye contact, compliments, massage, feeling 100% focused on the other person, presence. Being with a naked body and being present with my own. Being attentive to skin and hair and curves and smell and touch. Focusing on how our bodies complement each other. Focusing on showing deep appreciation and respect for each other's hearts, minds, and bodies. This has been a need of mine when J and I were monogamous, it's been a need since we opened up, and it's been a need regardless of the other partners in our lives. It has festered inside of me for a long time, aching to be met. My seams started to split a couple months ago and they have now, more or less, exploded.

J doesn't have the same desires for our relationship. We live together and see each other every day and he doesn't desire romance with me as often as I desire it with him. My need and desires for these kinds of interactions are aggravated by the existence of other romantic relationships in J's life. All I want when I feel insecure or envious or fearful is to have really romantic time with J.

I realized today, in the midst of a really hard week with J, that I feel empty on romance. And if I can get gentle touch and awe from a customer, I relish it. If I can give sensual touch and gazes and nonverbal appreciation, I take my chance. I realize that satisfying this need at work isn't sustainable or legal. But the revelation was an interesting one for me to have.

As far as negotiating romantic time with J goes, it's been really difficult. It has been extremely challenging for me to recognize that I need to have other relationships in my life that can satisfy this because I really want those experiences with J, too. J also is skeptical that any kind of compromise we make will never be satisfying enough for me. I am worried that even a compromise will feel like an obligation to J, and obligations don't seem particularly romantic to me. However, compromises aren't an ideal for either individual. That's why it's a compromise. I do see comprimises as ideal for negotiations and moving forward and as the healthier option (as opposed to just one of us getting entirely what we want).

So far, I have cried a lot, slept on the couch, and J has distanced himself from me. We're on the downward cycle and one of us (or ideally, both of us) needs to break it.

(Important side note: I feel like I can be open with our struggles because I know that we are going to get through them. I know that some people are raised with the attitude that you don't "air your dirty laundry," but that mentality is very claustrophobic for me. I need to be able to write, reflect, talk, and hear feedback from others who are not directly involved. Blogging is a really amazing tool for me in managing these struggles, and documenting progress and super joyful times, too. I just wanted to make it clear [probably in self-response to my own insecure-anxious-attachment personality] that I don't feel like we aren't going to get through this or that we are breaking up. We are struggling to work it out. But I am confident that we will come up with a comfortable compromise and happy medium.)
One of the biggest hurdles for me right now is battling a deep, internal dialogue that says that if J really loved me, he would desire to be more romantic with me. Or at the very least, if he really loved me, he could manage to be romantic and tolerate it because he knows it's important to me.

I know that he loves me. I know that. And there are a million other ways I feel connected and intimate with him. For me right now, it's about focusing on those million other things, seeking romance with other people, and enjoying romance with J when it feels good for him too.

Thanks for reading this angsty post.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Relating Preferences

So I mentioned in a recent post that I had a date with a woman. It was a really fascinating date, because she has a very particular approach to developing intimacy. I sent her an email later that evening to ask how she would have felt if I had kissed her. The email I got back was also fascinating.

She likes to meet for a few weeks, at least, before anything like hand-holding or a first kiss happens. I can understand that preference if you don't feel the right vibe or chemistry, and if it usually takes that long to feel something click for you. But during our date, there was definitely the right vibe; we brushed hands and arms and even faces. It was a situation in which I would have started to explore more physical touch (eg, a kiss or holding hands). For me, if I feel a click, and it's obvious the other person does to, why would I want to wait? For some reason, it feels a little arbitrary and superficial to say "Well, I can't do X yet because it hasn't been long enough." Even more odd for me was to receive her email back and for her to confirm that she was attracted to me and felt a connection, but has to wait to hold my hand or kiss me.

I like approaching my relationships more fluidly than this. If the emotional or mental connection is apparent, I want to develop that. If physical attraction or sexual energy is there, I want to explore that. These connections may happen alongside each other, or they may not. Not every relationship has to be some kind of "ideal." For this woman I met, it is pretty clear that she puts a much higher value on relationships that "last." It almost seems like that if she were to explore a physical connection with someone and the relationship was not a long-term one, that she would feel negatively about exploring the physical connection. I suppose this is also related to her saying during our date that she might feel sexual desire or chemistry, but that she has to feel sexually "open" to actually do anything, and her feeling of sexually "open" comes from her heart.

Clearly, she and I have different way of relating. I am now trying to figure out what my happiest mode is in thinking about seeing her again. I don't know if she and I are a great match, in terms of developing a romantic relationship. We talked for 3 hours, so obviously we have a lot to talk about and there is a good mental connection. We'll see :-)

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Some of you are aware, as we have talked to some of you about, that J often has sex while he sleeps. Sometimes it happens a few times in a week, sometimes it's less than that.

Last night we had another steamy and sleepy session, and it prompted me to look into sexsomnia a bit more. (It was hot, by the way. Some humping and tit squeezing followed by a hot BJ and cum swallowing ;-D He woke up right near the end and quickly fell back asleep. Ha!)

From what I could find in my brief research, 1 out of 12 people experience sexsomnia. It is now considered another sleep disorder, similar to sleepwalking. Individuals who have experienced another sleep disorder are more likely to experience sexsomnia. J has had trouble sleeping his whole life (possibly due to having chronically inflamed tonsils) which may explain his proclivities. I also wonder about genetics, because his brother is also an active sleeper. 

I wouldn't pathologize sleep sex (that is, I am not inclined to call it a "disorder") but I also like be woken up to J going at it. It can be exhausting for me (I don't sleep through it), but it doesn't happen regularly enough to impact me on a consistent basis. In fact, J's plans to get his tonsils removed has me a little worried about losing our nighttime sexy rendezvous.

Here are some articles that I found useful and interesting if you are so inclined to read about it more yourself :)

Interview: Stripper Relationships with Regular Customers

A couple of months ago, I met a young woman at my strip club, who told me she was conducting interviews with dancers about their relationships with regular customers (called "regulars") for her senior college thesis. She is a sociology student at a nearby university. I agreed to help her out, and I finally had my interview with her.

It was a really fascinating experience for me to talk with her for an hour, and be given the chance to verbally process and reflect on my relationships with the few regulars I have.

For instance, one man that comes to see me has opened up to me about his very early childhood sexual abuse and how he has a pretty severe dissociative disorder. Seeing me, in a sexually intimate space, has been pretty healing for him. Which I think is pretty cool.

Another man is a photographer that has offered to photograph me. Because of a slightly odd vibe, this is not a proposition that I would ever consider. But he is a gentle spirit, and I appreciate his thoughtfulness when he comes in.

Another is a much older man who was taken with my online profile and my level of education. He wanted to come in and support me because of it. Surprisingly (to me) his tone struck me as a little paternalistic. But he is nice enough, and he also brings me chocolates which I in turn share with the other dancers :-)

I know that regular relationships can turn into much more. Dancers have reported sharing phone numbers, intimate details about their lives, and outside social time with regular customers. A regular may give the dancer inordinate amounts of money every time he comes in, or may give expensive gifts. This turns a very transactional relationship into something much murkier. This also reminds me of the deeper relationships prostitutes may develop with customers over time. Money is still involved in the transaction for sexual energy, but there can be much more to the relationship.

The socializing and emotional engagement with customers is a bit exhausting, and talking to this student made me realize (even more than I already knew) that stage dancing is where I experience my flow. It is not in talking, engaging with, and being "friends" with customers, who buy my time with private dances and drinks and compliments. I am excited to read this student's thesis at the end of the spring to see what other seasoned dancers had to say about this interesting relationship! :)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Relaxing and Giving Myself Room

In counseling this week, I talked with my counselor about this current reality of mine:

I can't seem to both relax and process difficult emotions. I need to be able to get the sleep I want to, eat the way that makes me feel good, and connect with the people in my life the way I want to. Those things are important. I also need to be able to process difficult emotions, because otherwise I am ignoring them, stuffing them, letting them build up, etc. And processing is also important. But for a while now, I feel like I have only been doing the latter.

I really need to r e l a x.

When I just typed "relax" into Google images, I got tons of beach pictures. Which reminds me that my counselor also suggested that if I loved Maui so much, to consciously "bring" Maui into my life. Whether that is through beach color schemes or photos on the walls, she suggested consciously having visual mental triggers so that I could remember Maui and the feelings I associate with it.

So here are some of my favorite pictures (of scenery- there were also a lot of cute ones of J standing naked behind a pineapple and me in my thong) from our trip :-)

I crave being able to do both of these things: relaxing and processing. I don't know if they are possible to do in the same moment, but I really want to be able to feel relaxed day-to-day.

Another useful thing I talked about with my counselor was inviting difficult emotions and letting them be. She said that it sounded like I was getting really impatient and uncomfortable with myself and my processing. I think that is true. My impatience has been pushing my difficult emotions away: I just don't want to have to deal with them. I have been thinking of those difficult emotions as negative. Instead, she invited me to think about them not as negative, but as difficult, and to create space to swim in them. This line of thinking really resonated with me, especially in the context of Byron Katie's work and of the things I have read about letting go of emotions. In order to let things go, I need to be able to feel them and swim in them. But it also makes a lot of sense to me that I have been pushing them away when I haven't been able to also relax and rest. 

There is no resolution to this post. Except that I am trying to relax. :-)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rope + Date

I had the great fortune of being able to get back into some rope last night. J and I headed over to our swingers club, and luckily our rope friend was there with all of his lovely rope. We hit the orgy bed and I got myself all knotted up. It was amazing. So relaxing, meditative, and comforting. This woman's experience pretty much sums up my own (thank you B for passing it along!!)

Also: I had myself a girl date today. It was refreshing to talk for three hours, pretty much non-stop, with a woman about poly stuff, dating women, physical connections, dancing, and more. I don't know where that is headed, but even if it were to stop there, I am grateful for that brief encounter and human connection.


(PS: that picture is from my rope shoot back in October :D )

Coming Full Circle

Remember this post of mine on getting a stage dance for my birthday?

Well I am going to work at that club. 

I was back at work this week after my month-long hiatus, and the joy it gives me is almost indescribable. I love it so much. It feeds me on so many different levels. And so when the manager at my regular club did not give me as many shifts I wanted this week, I decided to branch out. And I thought, why not audition at that one club that I absolutely love? What's stopping me?

Honestly, I have been intimidated. Intimidated by the amazing pole dancers who work there. Intimidated by how hot most of the women are. Intimidated by the huge space. Intimidated by the very sexually charged atmosphere. Intimidated by how loud the music can be.

But I went for it anyway. I auditioned, and afterward, I filled out my schedule request for next week. I am pretty stoked about coming full circle with my stripping experience.

But there were so many interesting legal questions poppping up in my head during my audition process. This club has so many fucking rules. Am I really an independent contractor? It certainly doesn't seem like it.

1. You should arrive 15 minutes early. Every half hour you are late, you pay the house $20.
2. You must be in the stand-by area 1 minute before your song starts. Otherwise, the bouncers will be looking for you.
3. The private dances are two-way touching; that is, the customer is allowed to touch your ass, thighs, and everywhere on your tits except for the aureola and nipple.
4. The house fee is only $2... but...
5. The house keeps 20% of all private dance fees. 1 song is $40, 3 songs are $100, 30 minutes is $250, 1 hour is $500. So you get to keep $36 for 1 song, $80 for 3 songs, $200 for 30 minutes, and $400 for 1 hour.
6. You pay $5 to each bouncer. There are 1-4 bouncers during each shift.
7. Whatever you have left over, you are supposed to pay 10% of that to the DJ. So if you have $500 left after tipping the bouncers, you are *supposed* to tip the DJ $50.
8. WTF.
9. I hate tip-outs. HATE THEM.
10. You must fill out the hard copy schedule by Thursday (eg, you must submit your schedule request in person). If you fill it out on Friday, you pay the house $10. If you fill it out on Saturday, you pay $20. If you fill it out on Sunday, you pay $50.
11. You are not allowed to bring in any outside food that is not vegan.

Some pluses of this place: 
-I love that they do girl-girl sex. LOVE IT. The thought of being sexual with women is amazing. The thought of doing it for money turns me on.
-There are security cameras in all of the private dance areas, and a bouncer just sits and watches all of the videos to make sure everyone is safe and doing well.
-The girls I met last night seemed happy and friendly.
-The staff people I met were really nice, friendly, genuine.
-The stage is nice, even, smooth, flat. The poles are good quality.
-I have talked to one girl who danced there for a bit, and she said that the amount of money she made was worth the nutty tip-out policies. For her, that meant taking home $200-300 for a shift.

Here's hoping that it's a good experience! And if not, at least I will be able to say that I worked at my favorite strip club :-)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Byron Katie

I had heard of Byron Katie (website and blog) before, and recently came into contact again with her philosophies in Anapol's Polyamory in the 21st Century. I decided it was time to investigate her ideas further.

I downloaded and read her free e-book The Little Book (excerpts from her book Loving What Is), and found it immensely helpful. I think this description from the introduction to her book is pretty accurate in her approach:
"Her insight into the mind is consistent with leading-edge research in cognitive neuroscience, and The Work has been compared to the Socratic dialogue, Buddhist teachings, and twelve-step programs."
Her worksheets remind me of the rational emotive therapy I did to work on body image stuff. The inquiry and consequent cognitive restructuring is very similar. Unlike rational emotive therapy and other cognitive behavioral techniques, I find her method of inquiry to be more helpful because it does not assume that you have "rational" versus "irrational" thoughts. The Buddhist and Zen-like quality of her writing and worksheets allows me to accept whatever thoughts and beliefs I have, disregarding whether or not they are rational or not. It allows the inquiry to be more like meditation, instead of like homework.

All of her basic materials are available for free on her website, and she also has a phone app. I just downloaded it and used it, and found it to be pretty helpful. I can imagine using it often because of how accessible it is. It would be more difficult to keep printing out worksheets and keeping them around.

I hope to read Loving What Is soon, and continue blogging about how her method helps my internal work and how. :-)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


J and I were in Maui for ten days, and it was spectacular to have a change of scenery. It helped me gain clarity on some of my own internal workings and the whole trip was revitalizing. 

During our second-to-last day, J and I were walking around Lahaina, and I pulled him into a bath-and-body store. I love, love, love smelling yummy things. We started poking around the store, and a super cute and smile-y girl who worked there started talking to us. I thought she was so cute! After a while in the store, J and I finally left. "She was so into you!" I was stopped in my tracks. Really? Huh. I was left puzzling to myself. Why didn't I pick up on that? I felt attracted to her, and near the end of our interaction, finally started flirting back with her. Am I that inexperienced with women that I just don't notice and know how to behave? Maybe.

J finally convinced me to go back to the store and give her my number. Just think of it like practice, J said. It took me forty minutes, a ton of encouragement from J, and feeling like I was going to throw up before I could do it. The store had closed, but the lights were on and she was in the front sweeping the floor. The last time I wrote down my name and number for a girl, I ended up having to see her almost every day because she worked at the gym J and I use. But remembering that we were on vacation and leaving soon, I realized that this was a great opportunity to practice. Breathing deeply, I knocked on the door, told her I thought she was really cute and that I wanted to give her my number. She smiled huge at me and said Thanks!

She texted me the next day. What?! And then we had to get on a plane to leave. What?! We ended up going to see her and we spent a good hour chatting with her while she worked. I wanted to kiss her so bad, but there wasn't enough time before we had to leave.

It is rare, I find, for me to feel chemistry with someone. Friend chemistry, romantic chemistry, hot and sexual chemistry. It's all so amorphous and ambiguous. I don't know what happens to make that present. But it was amazing to experience it, and remember that I can feel that with a woman. The whole dating/looking to meet up with women/etc journey is exhausting for me emotionally. I want it so badly, and so I am so grateful to have least experienced what that chemistry can feel like. And then to gather up some courage to act on it, at least intitally. 

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear."
~Mark Twain

Monday, January 14, 2013

Insatiable Wives, Hot Wives, and Cuckolds

Read this post on my new site, SexualityReclaimed!


J recently read David Ley's Insatiable Wives: The Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them. Because J is often busy with school and still wants to blog, we found a compromise: he read the book and I will recap our conversations about it! :-) You can consider this post co-written by the two of us.

First, let's get some concepts on the table. These are concepts that we are articulating; others may have different ideas about them.

When we talk about a "hot wife" we are referring to a woman in a partnered couple who has sexual encounters (sex is the primary focus of the encounter) with other men. The husband/primary male partner is highly turned on by his wife's/female partner's sexual escapades, and derives pleasure and arousal from her exercising her sexual autonomy and from the image/thought/knowledge of another man having sex with her. 

When we refer to a "cuckold" we are referring to a man that enjoys the dominance/submission power relationship between himself and his female partner. Often, the cuckold likes to be belittled, humiliated, or otherwise made to feel powerless. The female partner has sexual relationships with other men as a means to capitalize on this power dynamic. The male partner often derives pleasure and satisfaction from the power dynamic between himself and his partner.

Thus, from what we know, "cuckolding" is more about the power exchange and relationship (as in other kinds of BDSM relationships) while "hot wifing" often lacks this element. Many mainstream articles conflate these two ideas. A man may derive intense sexual satisfaction from his partner having independent sexual escapades, but be completely horrified to be humiliated. However, another may only enjoy such escapades if he is also humiliated, forced to "clean up" the woman after her sexual encounter, etc. 

Ley's Insatiable Wives discusses many topics related to nonmonogamy while it centers around vignettes of (heterosexual) couples who enjoy hot wifing as part of their relationship. Most couples he interviews have full open relationships, but only a few of the men actually take advantage of their ability to be with other partners. For most couples, the majority of the focus for their open relationship is on the woman's sexual adventures.

The most interesting points for J (and thus for us to talk about) included:

-His introduction includes his reasoning for writing the book. Many people think that men turned on by hot wifing are mentally unhealthy and that many relationships like this are unhealthy or unsustainable. Because Ley is a clinical psychologist, he wanted to research for himself whether these ideas are true; he saw it as imperative that he be able to understand the motivations and ideas around hot wifing as he would likely interact as some point with a patient who had experience with hot wifing or cuckolding. He found for himself that most couples he talked to did indeed positively capitalize on the hot wife fantasy and were in healthy relationships.

-He sees the hot wife fantasy as potentially an adaptation to being with one person long-term. The fantasy capitalizes on the "other," creating at once separateness and intense desire within the primary relationship (think of Perel's Mating in Captivity).

-Many couples found that they had to hide their hot wife lifestyles from both the swinger and poly communities because of misunderstandings and judgements from both communities. I am continually amazed at how the nonmonogamous community has so man subcultures within it, and how each subculture has tendencies to throw others under the mainstream bus. Some couples found that swinger friends took issue with the seemingly non-egalitarianism of their relationships, while some couples found that poly friends took issue with the focus on casual, recreational sex (versus intimate sex revolving around love).

-J found Ley to be surprisingly sex negative at times, as it seemed he had particular ideas in his mind about which things were "okay" and which things "crossed a line" with regards to sexual behaviors, agreements, and boundaries.

-While some of the couples Ley discusses have full open relationships, many of them are open more in theory. For some couples, it was difficult for the woman to manage the man having other partners (because of jealousy, insecurities, etc), so the man eventually stopped trying to have other partners. For some other couples, it was never okay for the man to have other partners. And for some other couples, the man decided that it was simply too much work to try to meet other women (again, the inequity in vanilla dating at play). So for many of the couples Ley interviewed, the man is monogamous while the woman is nonmonogamous (although some of the couples still engaged in coupled sexual activities with other couples). For all of the couples, this has worked out because the hot wife fantasy is so thrilling and has sustained the primary relationship and satisfied both partners. However, the inequity of many of the featured relationship structures was fascinating to both of us.

-J did not like how Ley's book meandered into topics of nonmonogamy because he did not seem to be particularly qualified to be writing on those. He researched hot wifing and cuckolding, and thus had material and knowledge to discuss those topics. Other issues, such as the swing culture in general, should have been left out.

-Ley gave many examples of individuals and couples who have faced persecution from employers, family, and society for indulging their hot wife fantasies. These examples gave us pause in thinking about our own relationship and practices, and how those will mesh with our desired future careers.

-We both loved his concluding paragraph. It resonated for us as it seems to relate to open relationships in general. I absolutely love the metaphor of walking over hot coals:
"One might suggest that these couples are playing with fire, a hot, green fire, whose flames are jealousy, envy, and possessiveness. Indeed, I think many, if not most, people would be unable to play with these flames as successfully and burn-free as some of these couples manage. But, these couples may be like the people who walk across hot coals, and find that so long as they keep moving, the coals do not transmit enough heat to burn them. Pursuit of sexuality outside a marriage, through cuckoldry or hotwifing, is not inherently unhealthy. These couples can be successful, so long as they keep moving, keep communicating, maintain a healthy relationship, and acknowledge those flames of jealousy and envy as cues and signals, not as obstacles. There is nothing different in this from any other relationship. The things these couples do to remain healthy are the same things any couple should do. Health in relationships is determined not by what a couple does together, but how they communicate with each other, how they treat each other, and how they work together to maintain a functioning, mutually beneficial relationship. Communication, freedom, support, and mutual regard are the key components to any healthy relationship, regardless of sexual behaviors."