Emily Ko
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Dec 11, 2012 Emily Ko commented on Savage Love.
Midwestkittie,

It's easier to be non-monogamous with a new partner than to open an existing monogamous relationship. I actually find it rarely comes up as a real topic of conversation. I meet someone, we start dating. I'm usually pretty clear that I'm seeing other people if I am, but I also don't expect someone to assume I'm being monogamous with them unless we have made an explicit agreement or we're spending so much time together that they couldn't reasonably think I have time for anyone else. I've also usually spent time around them prior to actually dating them, and it's probably been referenced or disclosed in casual conversation at some point before we became linked. Most people put two and two together when they hear me say, "My partner Bob got a promotion yesterday!" in the morning and "I have a date tonight with Tim, the cute guy from the coffee shop," in the afternoon. Or we have friends in common who filled them before we went out.

If a hookup is totally unexpected we might have a conversation after that first hookup about, "So what does this mean?" where I'll be clear that I'm not looking for monogamy, but I might say something like, "We're clearly not going to keep doing this forever, but I don't think either of us sees the other as a long-term partner, either. So we can do this for a while, but when the time comes for this to end--as we both know it will--let's end it with mutual respect for each other." or "When we go out on dates together, we're out with each other. I won't pick up or ask out anyone else when I'm with you, and I'd like you to do the same for me."

I once started a fling with a guy who was definitely looking for monogamy in the long run, but didn't want to be in a relationship with me, so didn't particularly care that I was dating other people while dating him. I told him after our first hook-up that when the day came that he met a special lady he wanted to become serious and monogamous with, that he should feel free to just tell me, and I would be happy for him and we would end our sexual relationship and just be friends.

So I guess it's roughly the point where monogamous people would have the, "I want us to stop seeing other people," conversation--I just have a slightly different one at that juncture.
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Dec 4, 2012 Emily Ko commented on Savage Love.
@seandr

In a word, yes. Like Hyacinth, polyamory was a solution rather than making it worse, though.

I had some early life experiences that left me with a tremendous fear of abandonment. The sense that everyone I loved would eventually leave me, the sense that in my most vulnerable and needy moments, nobody would be there to support and comfort me. It actually took me a really long time (10, 15 years?) to figure out that I had this fear, because the way it showed up was that I seemed to be VERY VERY VERY into intense, committed, end-all-be-all relationships. When I met someone I liked, I would be saying "I love you" within weeks. If it went over well, the relationships became like little marriages overnight. Instead of hooking up and partying like my peers, I cohabited with 3 different partners over four years in college. We planned our futures, weddings, families, careers together. After college, what happened more often was that my desperation for such an intense relationship scared a lot of my dating partners off--I would ask for too much, too soon, and give too much, too soon--and as these partners abandoned me, the fear of abandonment grew worse, and my desperation and intensity grew worse, and so on in a vicious cycle.

Until I realized that all my desperate hunger for an intense committed relationship was like the raptors in Jurassic Park: I was testing their fence for weakness until I found the spot that would give. I was so afraid--so CERTAIN--they would abandon me, as previous partners had, that I would keep upping the ante: If sending little "thinking of you" love texts two weeks in didn't frighten him off, maybe meeting my parents three weeks in will. If that didn't frighten her off, maybe "I love you" four weeks in will. And so on. On a very subconscious level, I was running my relationships into the ground because there was a part of me that believed it was inevitable that I'd be abandoned and was just trying to speed it along, with some vague romantic notion that when I met The One, he or she would withstand everything I threw at him or her and that's how I would know they were never going to leave. That's how I would finally feel secure--by finding the person who couldn't be driven away, no matter how hard I tried.

I didn't realize this until I tried polyamory and about a year later I suddenly realized that I'd been with the same person for a year--after not being with the same person more than a month in over five years--and that my relationships were healthier than they'd ever been. I realized I had stopped being so intense, stopped being so demanding, and I realized I no longer feared that my partners would leave me. I still recognized it as a possibility, but 1) I knew that, because I'm dating other poly folk, they won't leave me for someone else when they can just date both of us, and 2) I knew that, even if they did leave me, I would have other partners to support me. I wouldn't be crying into my ice cream by myself in front of the TV. I would be crying into the shoulder of a supportive friend or lover who would gently hold me and reassure me that these things happen, that nothing is forever, that I am good and I am loved, and that just because it didn't work out with that person doesn't mean either of us need to be angry at each other, and that I can grieve the loss of the relationship for as long as it takes, instead of forever. I still get sad when a relationship ends, but I'm much more emotionally resilient these days. Polyamory gave me that. It took away my crippling fear.

Which is not to say that it would do that for everyone--I can see how people with more of a naturally jealous nature than me (again, I was never much a jealous person whether romantically or otherwise) might actually find polyamory harder to deal with than monogamy. But for me, it's infinitely easier.
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Dec 3, 2012 Emily Ko commented on Savage Love.
@seandr 192

"Romantic jealousy is an emotional reaction to the fear of losing your partner to someone else.

In both poly and monogamous contexts, people abandon relationships to pursue other relationships all the time. If you have a deep romantic attachment to someone, and you sense that it might be disrupted by another person, then jealousy - the fear of your partner choosing someone else over you, and the hurt you'd feel as a result - seems to me an inevitable response."

This is interesting to me, because polyamory was the context that set me free from my fear of abandonment.

I agree with you that jealousy is derived from the fear of loss, specially the fear that you'll lose something because someone else will take it away from you.

What changed my view was the realization and acceptance that nothing ever really stops a person from being able to leave you if they really want to. A word, a promise, a marriage certificate--none of those things really keep my partner from leaving me, although I'll of course admit they might make my partner more reluctant and slower to leave me. But in the end, partners will leave me if I'm monogamous, and they'll leave me if I'm polyamorous, as soon as they no longer feel like what they're getting out of our relationship is worth what they're putting into it.

Practicing polyamory also means I don't have to be as afraid that my partner will leave me for someone else, because they can be with that person without leaving me.

I always say that I don't particularly care what my partner does when he or she isn't with me. I just care about whether they're giving me what I need and honoring our agreements. I require a certain amount of attention, affection, talk-time, sex, whatever. If someone can give me everything I want from them and still have time/energy left over for other people, great! Nothing makes me happier than to see the people I love be happy. If someone isn't giving me what I want from them, I don't care if they aren't seeing anyone else. I'm not happy. I don't get jealous because I just focus on what's happening between my partner and me - not between my partner and anyone else.
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Dec 3, 2012 Emily Ko commented on Savage Love.
@sissoucat / 152

There's no one right way to do poly. For me the defining feature of polyamory is that nothing is taken for granted or assumed. Everything is openly discussed. Some polyamorous people do put restrictions on each other: such as allowing their partners to have sex with others, but not engage in certain romantic activities that are reserved for each other; reserving particular sex toys or sex acts for use only with each other; asking that their partner always call before going to bed even if they're spending the night with another lover, etc.

The key is for you to really think about what you want from your partners, what you can't live without in a relationship and what you can't live with, what you're willing to provide the partner in question, and what you're willing to sacrifice for the partner in question. You may even find that what you want and are willing to give is different from one partner to the next. Once you figure out what those things are in relation to a person you're involved with, then you sit down and tell them what your terms are, listen to what their terms are, and then the two of you together decide if you both want to agree to be bound by those terms until such time as you mutually renegotiate them.

I practice polyamory and have several different types of relationships. I have a long-term partner with whom I was friends for years before we became romantically involved; we usually behave more like friends who occasionally smooch when we're out in public, but most people in our social circles know we're "more than friends" but also not in a dating relationship. He's the partner I'm most comfortable with, trust completely, and he also gives me advice about the other men and women I'm pursuing and I listen to his stories and give him advice about the other women he pursues.

I have another partner who I see a couple times a month pretty much only for very kinky, freaky sex. We're after different things in life but we're more sexually compatible than I've been with anyone else in a decade. He is very kind and respectful and doesn't treat me poorly just because our relationship is strictly sexual.

My third partner is much younger than me, and our relationship primarily emotional with sex on the side. He comes to me with his existential crises, his youthful confusion, his need to be listened to, and I play the role of mentor/healer and ask very little of him. I value our relationship because when I'm with him, I see myself the way he sees me - as a wiser, confident older woman who has all her shit figured out, understands life, and knows the answers to all the big questions.

I need and get a lot of different things - support, sex, validation. I get emotional support and stability from my long-term partner, I get wild kinky sex from my sex friend, and I get to feel wise and needed with my young friend. That's just how my personal polyamory looks right now at this moment in time. Yours may look very different. But the first step is to figure out what you need, and what you can give.
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Dec 3, 2012 Emily Ko commented on Savage Love.
@wendy/109

"I have never met anyone who was poly after meeting someone they actually wanted to be exclusive with, and for whom they felt it was worth it to be exclusive."

This is hurtful to me, as it implies that the only reason I'm poly is that I don't want any of my partners enough, or find them worthwhile enough. It establishes a hierarchy where monogamy is a stage above polyamory, that you graduate to once you have found the Real Thing, as opposed to just an alternate choice. It'd be like if I said, "I've never met anyone who was monogamous after finding a partner who was generous enough and secure enough not to be threatened by non-monogamy."

We like to operate our relationships the way we like to operate them and whether our relationships are monogamous or polyamorous doesn't have anything to do with how much we want/love/value our partners.
Dec 3, 2012 Emily Ko joined My Stranger Face
Dec 3, 2012 Emily Ko joined My Stranger Face