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Zoethe

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Free to be? [May. 25th, 2011|01:20 pm]
Zoethe
Over the years, Ferrett and I have watched poly groups form and evolve, some of them staying together and some moving on, and it's interesting to watch how issues are handled. Because there is a tendency to have a "circle the wagons" attitude about alternative lifestyles in general, and therefore for there to be pressure - sometimes subtle, sometimes not - for people to stay in the club, and disappointment, even disapproval, if someone decides to leave. And I feel uncomfortable with that pressure.

It's one of the things I spend a LOT of time explaining to people - Ferrett and I went through a period of time where we needed to pull back to monogamy for almost two years, and we may find ourselves in a place where that's necessary in the future (not anticipating it, just recognizing that it could happen). A person engaged in an alternate lifestyle doesn't have to be ALL THE THINGS, ALL THE TIME. And choosing to be in a different place now does not invalidate who they were before, nor does "who they were before" ever require them to be that person again. We are not binary beings; most of us are on a scale of attraction, desire, lifestyle. And life changes can move us along that scale. It only becomes a problem when the "supposed to be" mentality interferes. We've all seen the results of the "you're SUPPOSED TO BE straight!" attitude and the homophobes caught with a mouthful of dick. That we're used to. But there can be a lot of "supposed to" in alternative lifestyles: if you're kinky/poly/bi, it's easy to think you're SUPPOSED TO stay that way, when in reality there should be love and support for being where you need to be.

That's not to say that we don't have times when we have to push ourselves to discover why we're changing, or deal with a situation that is making us uncomfortable. Sometimes that discomfort is temporary, and sometimes it's a sign of a real change, so it has to be tested - otherwise it's easy to be yoyo-ing between extremes and causing ourselves and our loved ones stress and hurt feelings. But being able to talk about it in a way that feels safe and accepting is really important.

It's brave to say, "I am currently uncomfortable/hurt/insecure" and invite dialogue, rather than either clamming up and internalizing the pain or burning down everything out of the fear that it's all gonna burn anyway so why waste time? It means you have to be willing to talk, and to listen, and to keep reforming the hypotheses and be accepting of the fact that other people will have feelings and reactions and they aren't always going to be comfortable to hear, and they will sometimes be right about the reasons why you are changing in ways that are downright painful to hear. And being strong enough to recognize what's legitimate compromise and what's "just giving in" and doing what's right for yourself.

The fact that the community want you to stay one of them makes that pressure even harder to resist. I see it in pagan communities, too: if someone decides to leave, there is a palpable disappointment that they are no longer "one of us." When true acceptance would be to respect their decisions.

It's natural that we gravitate to people like ourselves, and that we are excited when they share things that are important to us. But it's also imperative, if we are to be the people we would look up to, for us to be wise and kind to those undergoing change or leaving our groups. Because tolerance is a two-way street.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-25 05:39 pm (UTC)
I think it's part of our most basic monkey brain - from birth babies try to categorize. And it's definitely every schoolyard ever. So it's natural that our first reaction is dismay or disappointment when we perceive someone moving off "our team."

Moving beyond that takes insight and thought. And I'll admit that my first reactions to things don't always come from the insightful, thoughtful side of me. In some ways, we never stop being six years old. It's what we do with that six-year-old that matters.
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[User Picture]From: jeffpalmatier
2011-05-25 05:37 pm (UTC)
When true acceptance would be to respect their decisions.

I agree totally. It seems like true tolerance is hard to come by, unfortunately. In reality it usually seems to work as 'tolerance for people who think like us.'
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-25 05:43 pm (UTC)
Yes, and arguing for true tolerance is the thing that gets me accused of being both a knee-jerk Left-Winger and a Kool-Aid drinking Right-Winger on an amusingly regular basis. ;-)
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From: anonymousalex
2011-05-25 05:53 pm (UTC)
If you're trying to get a lot of comments, you're going about it entirely the wrong way. You need to say something that's actually controversial. :-)

More seriously, I have (like everyone else, I suppose) seen this six ways 'till Sunday. I think the important thing is not what people's instant reaction is, since that's mainly attributable to the ol' primate brain, but what they do second.

-Alex
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-25 06:29 pm (UTC)
Definitely. Alas, many people never get past primate brain....
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[User Picture]From: mplsindygirl
2011-05-25 05:54 pm (UTC)
Well said! The dynamics of my relationships ebb and flow in irregular, unpredictable ways. I've explored the groups that are centered on certain lifestyle choices, and while I appreciate what I find there, groups just aren't my thing. Some people from the groups are a bit awkward with me when I run into them out of that context. Others are just fine about it.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-25 06:38 pm (UTC)
Some groups click, and some don't. Not being a group person is fine - but some people have trouble accepting that.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-25 06:40 pm (UTC)
Yup. In poly, as in everything else, there are people among your group that you would just as soon weren't. Acceptance of change seems to be a real challenge, though.
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[User Picture]From: anivair
2011-05-25 06:42 pm (UTC)
I see that a lot. I don't know why it is in the poly community, but in the pagan community, it's because if you find paganism and then go back to your old faith, most people see it not as a good decision, but as you caving to the social and often familiar pressure to "fit in" and "be normal". And to be fair, i have seen more than one pagan give up on the path because they found that it was more important to them that they not get funny looks at the office or that their parents not find out. That bothers me a lot, but it is their call.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-25 06:45 pm (UTC)
I have a problem with people who feel that they can only be pagan if they are completely in the faces of the people around them, only to give it up because of the social pressure they themselves created by insisting that the One True Way was the Confrontational Way. I question their understanding of faith and wonder what their actual agenda was.
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[User Picture]From: miintikwa
2011-05-25 07:15 pm (UTC)
I applaud this so fucking hard. C and I had to retreat from a poly group when we lived in Tampa, and close things off for a bit to deal with some emotional foo. You'd have thought we kicked someone's puppy.

Thank you for saying this "out loud."
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-25 07:26 pm (UTC)
Feel free to link, refer, rub noses in, whatever. People getting bent out of shape because of you making these kinds of good decisions for yourself need smacking.
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[User Picture]From: caudelac
2011-05-25 07:33 pm (UTC)
I was fortunate in that I had been away from the "gay scene" so long that when I got together with my Boy, I got no flack whatever, from anyone but myself. That said, considering things I had said and done in re: other lesbians who started dating guys, or a guy, eventually, I was pretty fucking harsh on myself, for some time. It didn't stop me, but I kind of felt awful. "Worst Lesbian Ever," jokes notwithstanding.

It's funny how the anticipation of a bad time can feel nearly as real as the bad time itself. So much so that someone else doing it feels almost like relief... all that mental prep one does? Not going to waste. :p
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-25 07:54 pm (UTC)
It's weird how we're hardest on the people who are on our side. Including ourselves.
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[User Picture]From: firerose10
2011-05-25 09:00 pm (UTC)
I hear ya totally here. My hubby and I, while both bi and poly, have stayed virtually monogamous almost for the entire duration of our relationship. We were more interested in solidifying OUR relationship than in being "good poly folk" and dating others like the poly-mink in our Tampa acquaintances. Now, it is simply that we live in uber-conservative catholic-loving area. No one really interests either of us and it isn't very safe to be different - the fact that I am pagan and he is an atheist - and both of us are very open about it - has already made it difficult at times.

Now, however, we are moving back to the "big city" and are both looking forward to being active in our respective groups. But since we are both very laid back about who we are, I can see the disapproval pending among the friends we make. Several of the kink group can NOT understand that I have left that lifestyle for a reason and will ONLY return when I am ready - not due to them trying to pressure me back in.

But I do think I will keep a copy of this writing and refer back to it whenever I catch myself reverting to the same schoolyard-think...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-25 09:17 pm (UTC)
You have to do what is right for you and your primary relationship. That's absolutely key. Go you for being levelheaded about it.
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[User Picture]From: wished4this
2011-05-25 10:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-26 01:01 am (UTC)
Hope it helps.
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2011-05-26 01:30 am (UTC)
shared on twitter
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[User Picture]From: illiana_galean
2011-05-26 01:38 am (UTC)
Once I got past giggling about your journal title, I was finally able to read your actual post. It's wonderful, thank you. And thanks Mari for tweeting it.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-26 05:09 am (UTC)
It's been titled thus for so long that I forget it will amuse people. Glad you liked the post.
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From: anonymousalex
2011-05-26 11:12 pm (UTC)
I've been mulling this over in the back of my head, and it occurred to me that I've seen this sort of behavior, at least sometimes, from people who don't really believe in tolerance at all. They may say they want tolerance for practical or political reasons (no doubt stemming from the fact that their position is a (sometimes vanishingly small) minority), but in their hearts they believe that their position is not just right, but more enlightened than the other/majority position.

In other words, they're not blindly or stupidly applying tolerance to themselves and not others; they're hypocritically and falsely appealing to tolerance simply because it gets them what they want in the moment.

I'm not saying that everyone in the group is like that, but I think there's enough of a thread of it that it could account for at least a sizable fraction of the observed reaction.

-Alex
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-05-27 12:14 am (UTC)
I think we see that all the time in many facets of life, and it's very frustrating. "Tolerance" turns into, "put up with my beliefs and keep your stupid beliefs to yourself."

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