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Excellent insights. What a healthy post.

Tynan Rhea

I love this article. It has articulated so many feelings I've been having lately and having a hard time saying because of all the reasons of politics and sex-shaming you've mentioned. Ive also written a similar-ish article on the topic I'd love to share but no pressure to read: http://www.tynanrhea.com/single-post/2016/12/27/what-if-we-thought-about-sex-positivity-as-a-spectrum - I hope we can connect some time!


Thanks for writing this, Arden. That pointed me to some things that I need to be careful about.


It was far more dangerous for me to be in a vanilla relationship and not know what my needs were than to be in a loose D/s relationship in which I acknowledge that I want someone else to help structure a lot of things I haven't figured out yet. Is the latter ideal? Not especially.

Over a year in to a much healthier dynamic, I have learned that when I do finally figure something out he honors that shift. I think for us poly has been a minor part of an effort to maintain autonomy, wherein we do not restrict the kinds of connections possible, the kinds of change that allow for growth. This type of trust has made life richer in other areas of life far more than it has populated our beds with other lovers.

Much of the pain in my broken relationships seemed to stem from a clinging to the other as a source (of comfort, stability, esteem, status) in a way that limits the beloved's own growth. If I put the ways my beloved meets my own needs above their own need to grow, am I loving them or am I using them? If my own needs don't factor in, am I failing to bring myself fully to the endeavor and is that fair to my beloved, who wants to love me?

Freedom does not mean that we allow ourselves to be disrespected just as poly isn't a blanket contract to abandon at will.

We need a map and at the same time recognize how much a map isn't the terrain. I dated someone who had super strong opinions about poly and how it should work, probably as a result from attending too many workshops on polyamory. His strong opinions weren't a problem when I figured out that leaving him was a great way of reconciling how much they didn't work for me. What I noticed when I went exploring is that there are some rare people who are truly capable of paying attention. This has kept me safe, and taught me that I hadn't been paying enough attention to myself.

Thank you for this post. You dig deep, and that is refreshing as it is rare. It also makes me wonder; have you had lovers who you feel have done as much or more work on themselves as you do on yourself?


I love this post so much. Thank you. There is a lot I identify with, although I do think that for me, bdsm and poly were kind of like a crash course in figuring myself out - decades of therapy condensed into a few years of throwing myself at the abyss. I discarded poly 13 years ago, when I met my current partner. Since he knew of my poly past, it's come up a few times, but we've always worked through it. For me, the costs simply outweigh the benefits. Once in awhile it sounds tempting, then I remember all the things that made it not work for me. Oh, and guess what? Jealousy wasn't one of them. One of my peeves is the line about how "poly takes work" as if only poly people are willing and able to do difficult emotional and relationship work. In my experience, it takes a lot more emotional work to make long term monogamy happy for both people, so fuck that particular poly holierthanthou bullshit.

As for the bdsm, I have a wonderful partner who didn't come to me that way, but has been supportive and great in figuring out what he can and can't do in that department. Answer: lots of super awesome bdsm that stops at the bedroom door, which for me is exactly, perfectly great. When I met him, my kinky friends were dubious. Most of those friendships have fallen away now that my sex life is a PART of my life, not the all-consuming focus that it felt like in the poly/bdsm community. I do miss some of those friends, but it became obvious that our commonalities ended at kink.

As someone who survived (barely) an abusive bdsm relationship, I know all too well how difficult it is to get out of that wilderness when everything you thought you knew about abuse was reframed as "being a good submissive", and when your needs in poly are completely disregarded, then you are painted as jealous. I commend you for having the courage to post something that needs to be said more often.


I have the oddest response to this post - I feel so ... PROUD of you, though we've never met and never will and I have absolutely no reason to feel pride in any of your choices or realizations. But this journey you're on is HARD. And ugly and beautiful and worth it. How fantastic to see someone navigating it with so much honesty and grace, even while showing us the bruises and broken bones earned along the way. Clearly, this road is pretty familiar to me and I've landed in a similar place - I only care about intimacy and loyalty and fidelity to whatever agreement is knowingly and consensually and lovingly made between/among partners. I don't "do poly right" most of the time either. and I definitely don't do monogamy right. But I've gotten very skilled at hearing my body, at last, and being able to say what works for me and walk away (eventually) from what doesn't. Still means I end up solo, but that's better than trapped, and it's pretty wonderful to realize I can always count on myself to show up on that white horse when needed. always.

Wherever your next step goes, I hope you know you've already laid down a path for so many more people than you can imagine just by this post, and the one last summer. Please keep making messes (read: CHOICES) and being brave enough to talk about them and then turning them into art. thank you.

Ben P

I saw "map" and I have to share. Here's a map that I adore as I'm always looking for good vocabulary and characterizations to aid in communicating. http://www.obsidianfields.com/lj/nonmonogamy2.5.1.gif


I think that in this post you are, as always, brave and honest. There are not many people who change their minds and are open about it, and that is what, for me, makes your writing so reliable and interesting, and you a person who knows their shit - I know I can trust your relationship and sex advice and your conclusions about sexuality, because you aren't afraid to review your past ideas. This is what makes you a real expert, and not yet another self-proclaimed guru.

I've never written a comment on your blog, though I've been following it for years. Your book really changed my love life for the better, from an abusive non-relationship to the great relationships I've had ever since. I think from the beginning you sent a strong message of self-acceptance and boundaries in your writing, even if you were struggling with it like you say in this post, or at least that's the way I interpreted it. I did realise, through reading your book, that I didn't need to have loads of sexual conquests to be liberated and a true feminist, that monogamy was actually nicer for me (though I've always though I might try non-monogamy myself), and that my personal brand or identity needed not to be, for example, like yours (which is beautiful, by the way), but could be hippier, flat-shooed and less social and still work :)

You are someone who has really helped, in the distance, to shape a little bit who I am, how I present myself to others and how I live my love life, so it makes me really happy to see you are discovering inside of yourself, these things that you already wrote about, that you already knew about in an intellectual level. And that you're not afraid even though this can be terrifying. Because you made me feel brave and capable and not afraid at a time when I had two choices: to change or to go down a road of abuse.

Sorry if my comment is a bit confusing, I don't know how to put everything into words. You're so right about what you're saying, I've also felt the pressure to have more sexual experiences, try new sexual practices and be exactly what others wanted me to be. I've always said I find it terrible that men find me being bisexual attractive, but if I'm honest, maybe I also secretly liked it and tried to make them know. I don't know why this happens even to those of us who think a lot about this shit, I guess we're not safe from the patriarchal society even if we reflect about it... I'm still struggling with all of this, but I'm learning to let go and not try to be someone else or have someone else's needs.

I didn't have it as hard in my childhood as you did, I can't even imagine what you went through, and I don't know you personally. I could tell you that you're strong and that you're figuring all of this out, but you already know and anonymous people on the internet can't and shouldn't try to help you with that. But what I wanted to let you know with this comment is that I admire you so much and that these things that you say now were implicit for me in all of your writing before this post. I'm glad you're putting them to use now and I hope you will be very happy with your love life in the future. I'm sure you will, you're on that path.

I want to send you lots of energy and appreciation, maybe some of it will reach you :)

Take care,



Very interesting and some things resonate deeply. Parts of my brain are very desociative too and loved ones pain and pleasure are sometimes felt more deeply than my own. I've learnt that this is a hurdle in my ability to offer support. A good caregiver filters out some of the pain their loved one feels other wise they can't provide a safe healing environment. If I get hurt by a loved one parts of me do want them to feel the pain I'm feeling but other parts know that will not help the healing process and know that many times pain I'm feeling has a lot to do with past abandonment being triggered by a specific action. As for poly it sounds like you've had your share of bad poly. Personally I think that when sex and love are not treated with artificial scarcity there is more of both to share and with good poly more of people's needs can be met so I hope you don't give up on the philosophy.

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