Transitions: getting closer/farther/breaking up (or not)

Of all the ideas coming from the “default world”, the one that we go from “best friends and confidants and better half” to “don’t talk to each other, possibly enemies” was (and is) the most terrifying/alien to me.
What are the alternatives?
How do we build them? How do we prepare for them?

When? 2019-08-28
Where? TBD Somewhere in Berlin, probably Kreuzberg or Neukölln
What?

This is a topic I have been wanting to discuss for a long time, and 2019 seems to be a strange year for break ups…

Cards on the table:
I (Alex) was drawn to non-monogamy/polyamory more for the idea of “not having to break up if you want more/someone else/this is not enough” than for the “abundance of lovers”.
Of all the ideas coming from the “default world”, the one that we go from “best friends and confidants and better half” to “don’t talk to each other, possibly enemies” was (and is) the most terrifying/alien to me.

What are the alternatives?
How do we build them? How do we prepare for them?

The topic also covers the other way around: getting closer, committing after having said we’re just hooking up/dating/relationship anarchy-ing around/etc…

FB event.
The schedule is the usual:
we start mostly on time,
arriving late is not encouraged but possible,
the first 15-20 minutes will be re-hashing the system (so, yeah, unless you REALLY like hearing it again, if you know the system, you’re welcome to arrive 7:45).

Resources:

Articles:
(I’ve not read them all yet, cannot vouch yet)
https://www.morethantwo.com/dealingwithbreakups.html
https://elisabethsheff.com/2012/12/20/failure-or-transition-redefining-the-end-of-polyamorous-relationships/
https://www.theferrett.com/2017/06/05/you-dont-have-to-break-up-with-them-one-of-the-hardest-decisions-in-polyamory/
https://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-to-break-up-from-a-polyamorous-relationship
https://swipelife.tinder.com/post/polyamory-break-up/ (hm… I already don’t agree with the title, I mean… stopping everything is simpler, yes. Is it better? Monogamy is also simpler and non-monogamy)
https://medium.com/non-monogamy-help/how-to-break-up-in-polyamory-cca243edefcb
http://www.its-complicated.com/2016/01/six-things-not-to-do-after-a-poly-breakup/
These don’t seem rosy:
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vvkagj/polyamorous-people-tell-their-worst-breakup-stories
https://www.reddit.com/r/polyamory/comments/8hpknb/breaking_up_with_the_love_of_my_life_because_of/

Books:

Specifically on the topic, The Polyamory Breakup Book: Causes, Prevention, and Survival, from the author of the “Jealousy Workbook”.
And there is something about it that I liked in “Rewriting the rules

I also found out about this one while doing my homework:
The Breakup Museum

Touch and Politics, notes

What’s the interaction between what we do with our bodies, to our and other bodies, and the social body out there?
Do we have a duty to change the world, just to resist unwanted change, or…what?

Some sort of resume of 3 different events at Xplore Berlin 2019.

Personal/administrative note:
I am becoming more and more aware that keeping a conversation “personal and practical” is essential to keep it open and friendly.
Personal experiences are full of shades of grey, of “maybe”s, of things we tried but we’re not sure what’s the reason they worked/didn’t work, and at times we’re not sure they actually worked out or not.
Ideas can be much more black and white.
“Politics” tend to fall in the realm of ideas, all too often.
I was a bit worried, so I really tried to frame the conversation in a way that would keep it in the real of personal experiences, desires, actions.
This somehow limited the scope, but kept it alive and lively: I consider it a success.

We started with the following tentative definitions:

Touch:

  • including who we want/desire to touch/from whom we want to be touched, and the ways we desire/do it
  • including physical/sexual relationships
  • the non-virtual world

Politics

  • including our interactions with society
  • the mismatch between personal and society, when there is an act of influence/being influenced
  • active/passive/direct/indirect political action: “being a X is already political” vs. “going in the streets” vs. “affecting the government”…

The first few topics were:

  • personal experiences and discovery of any sort of mismatch between what we want and what society considers normal/the default: what did we do? Did we act? Change? Fight?
  • actions taken/had to take/were taken when the mismatch appeared: what and how?
  • how to bring things out in the open?
  • what has a political valence? What is effective, not effective, what do we consider to be “effective”?

Notes/topics that popped out, more or less in order:

  • how much it’s me, how much it’s society telling me what I want/should want?
    • what happened when I discovered I could want something that wasn’t expected?
    • how did it feel from the inside? What happened when I thought I was the only “broken” one?
    • what happened when we discovered we weren’t alone?
  • when worrying about the rest of society (eg: a teacher dealing with sexual bodywork), some people keep different activities in different cities
    • even using nicknames/aliases
    • for some reason, Berlin is often the city choosen for the sexual stuff
  • “I am not interested in dealing with anyone that is not interested in this part of my life”
    • having to choose between old friends/family and desire is a big choice
    • it has a cost
    • “I want to keep my CURRENT friends too”
    • sometime, they accept you, they find you weird… and 5 years later they ask you for advice because they’re discovering something too
  • “my job isn’t sexual but isn’t affected by my sexual activities”
  • how do you help others being out?
  • what is the political aspect of “somatics and politics”?
  • the body has its own intrinsic limitations
    • body <-> mind
    • making a difference, and where, is somehow a political statement
  • we meet lots of un-embodies activists
    • disconnected from their bodies, and from the “physical”
  • it is hard to explain to political “comrades” WHY you are now doing what you’re doing
    • yoga, body-mind activities, meditation, sexual practices
  • being disembodies makes for more conflictual
    • bodies tend to be full of compromises, not black/white ideas
  • “I was more political before I became kinky”
    • it seems common to feel “I left the general political arena to dedicate to myself/smaller things”
  • bodies/life is messy
  • sexuality is a further level of somatics
    • normalizing sexuality
    • bringing something back to your “normal” life

Opening up about what we do at Xplore/sex+ events with our children:

  • give them massages/safe physical activities
  • describe/present is as “self development” work
  • the hero’s journey, bringing back material
    • children love heroes/adventures
    • share about sexuality in general

How to safeguard our work/family if the environment is hostile?

  • having an art name/kunstname
    • there is some legal protection on this, some people did it
  • the role of Facebook in facilitating/threatening our sexual/political revolution(s)
  • how do we build (real) communities?
    • could we have a “post Xplore” connection event?
    • something like a decompression (apart from Konk)
    • a voluntary list of people that want to “bring something as action outside Xplore”
  • the need for safe/intermediate spaces, between “nothing” and Xplore
    • some spaces in that directions exist
    • cuddle parties, playfights, soft events
  • creating groups in smaller cities is hard/people are interested/don’t know where to start
    • other people struggled with finding groups in existing cities, even Berlin
  • how to facilitate talk/connection/exchange between communities?
    • how do we include each other?
    • how to work with other organizers? Connect?
  • what about the conflicts between communities?
    • concentrating on what we have in common would be the best
    • but it’s hard for people that are really passionate
    • ingroup/outgroup
    • “this behavior is too heternormative/kinky/not kinky enough/too X for our space”
  • creating a “minority conflict resolution/connection space”
  • ritual play
    • named group/event in the direction of playfight

What could WE want/need from society/politics?

  • more spaces to use/explore/connect
  • “the time has come” (not sure what was this about)
    • probably “to be out there and proud”
    • see “gay pride”
  • sexual health in sex+ communities
  • we need symbols that we can share/show
    • eg: the rainbow is AN AMAZING symbol
  • how to be open vs. being safe
    • being inclusive of curious people vs. keeping out communities safe/more closed
    • what is the balance?
  • creating a support group of therapists
  • or FOR therapists?
  • having apps to connect people between offers of communities, and looking for communities
    • meetup.com maybe?

Other bits and pieces:

  • body therapy for people with trauma?
    • supporting/including people that could need lots of attention/space: how?
  • being connected with other people DOES change the world
    • “we’re not very good consumerists, we need some condoms, lube, gloves, and water”
  • “why so many identity labels?”
    • why looking for differences?
  • dealing with change/growing older as activists
    • the world changed around you
    • and dealing with older activists, that were bleeding edge 30 years ago… and sound kind of conservative now
    • (it means they more or less “won”, I guess)

The crossroad between personal and political

  • how are we helping “the world” with this?
    • and helping each other?
  • are we just in a bubble?
    • are we dancing on the Titanic?
  • “being kinky made me more aware of gender dynamics/other social topics”
    • several people shared how their sexuality came first, and made them learn about other social topics
    • while some came to sexual activism from social engagement
  • “we’re the lucky millions” (meaning in Europe/the “West”)
    • we can be “good examples” that other people CAN follow
    • we shared examples of people from less open countries (starting from Italy, going down to Thailand, Iran, Russia), being inspired by what happens
    • being the sparks
    • the reason to be as open as we can, and sharing what we’re doing: it can inspire others
    • (or create lots of FOMO)
  • “one more happy person is one problem less in the world”
  • advertising vs. evangelism
  • showing people “this is better” is different from pushing change down other people’s throats
    • and being pushed isn’t fun
  • the point of being here is to improve yourself, the rest of the world will follow…

Spacetime: together/separate/long distance and all that

Living apart is hard. Living together is hard. Long distance is also hard.
Or not: they are different kind of hard, and easier for some than for others.
Or maybe there are tricks, or techniques.

This is a bit of an experiment: I generally take LOTS of notes during events, but they are notes for myself, or “I will one day collect this stuff in an actual cookbook”.
They tend to be lists and bullet points. Some get transcribed the following days, lots just stay in scrap paper.

I’ve been often requested “can you share what has been discussed?”.
Now: making it really readable would take forever. And it would require lots of editing, and… well, it would really end up being what I (Alex) feel it’s worthwhile.
That can be interesting. That could even happen.

For now, I will try to transcribe my crib notes in a way that COULD be useable, at least to the people that were present.
So here it is, from our last event:

Spacetime: together/separate/long distance and all that

Living apart is hard. Living together is hard. Long distance is also hard.
Or not: they are different kind of hard, and easier for some than for others.
Or maybe there are tricks, or techniques.

The conversation:
We started with the following topics:
1) sharing experiences on reasons to move together
2) how to keep it fresh while living together/close,
and
3) how to keep it close when living apart/far away.

Reasons to move together:

  • some people moved in after a few weeks of knowing each other.
    • it worked quite well, with taking care of having separate spaces from the start
    • such spaces were rarely used
  • others moved in directly after leaving their parents’ place
    • also with separate spaces (it was the old Berlin)
    • moving again to smaller places, learning to live together
  • moving in for convenience (cheaper rent, I need a place to stay) seems often disastrous
  • moving in as a choice, testing the waters, because we want: seems to work out
  • learning to live together is a step by step process
  • consider the possibility of testing living together, eg: “2 months and then we move out”
  • moving in where someone is already settled can be kind of hard
  • living as a couple in a shared apartment/space with other non couples can be problematic (we didn’t follow through on the topic)

Keeping it fresh:

  • “in this group, it seems the norm to need space: what about the ones of us that just want to be together all the time?” was a question.
    (I personally always felt it was the opposite, that I was weird for wanting space. Maybe we are all hearing the wrong messages, or we’re biased in feeling wrong)
    • what is considered “the default”, “the norm”?
    • Berlin can be a quite anti-couple culture
  • being an introvert and having to request “me-time” can be hard
    • even if agreed when moving in
    • could be hard if the agreement is “I need me time, you need to sleep somewhere else”
    • how not to feel you’re rejecting someone?
    • “being clear in your needs” can be hard
  • having an agreed number of “nights separate/alone” can make it easier, you don’t have to request them
    • easier than noticing you need space/asking for it/feeling rejected
  • if you live together, consider doing lots of activities outside the house
    • no “just hanging out” by default at home
  • if you’re poly, having dates with others, outside, helps
  • sleeping in different places at home:
    • mattress in the kitchen
    • on the terrace
    • etc (you get the idea)
  • adrenalize together:
    • skyjump
    • do new/weird/strange things
    • keep the mystery

Keeping close when afar:

  • old school/the obvious
    • lots of letters (the paper kind)
    • long letters
    • lots of phone calls
  • it can be almost exciting
  • channel your inner “19th century romantic poet” with letters, poems, thoughts
  • shared skype masturbation can be fun
  • send each other artistic videos
  • sharing adventures (sexual/romantic ones)
    • if you’re not feeling threatened, it’s easier to have compersion since they’re not taking anything away from you
      (it’s not like you could have a date and they meet someone else)
  • if anxious/prone to fear: stock up on good experiences when together
    • really concentrate on the good, and remember it
    • go back to it
    • even verbalize it when together, “I am loving this so much”, “this is great”…
  • share pictures of daily life (and audio, and videos)
    • picture of food/etc
  • choose together a book to both read
    • then know you’re sharing that experience
  • there are websites to be watching the same video/movie together when apart, at the same time
    • “Game of Thrones”
  • deciding what/how much to share when in touch
    • how many details are important/taking time apart
  • be on the same page on how much contact is expected needed
    • how to find out and/or adapt?
  • “I normally need lots of contact, but in one relationship I don’t… it’s great hearing from others that had close relationships without daily messages!”
    • long term, committed relationships with 3+ weeks gaps in exchanges of messages
    • “is it OK that I don’t need much contact in this relationship?”
  • “I am very independent, I don’t need lots of contact/reassurance”
  • have rituals/agreements on what to do
    • eg: sending pictures of meals
    • or NOT, it would drive some people crazy: ask

After the shared proposals and voting, we selected the following topics:
1) etiquette for digital communications,
2) children & living together,
3) inequality about time investment/entering a relationship with someone that has someone else (children, partners, dependents) requiring lots of time/attention,
4) making up/peacemaking after long distance conflicts,
5) how much time together in the first periods of getting to know each other.

Etiquette for digital communications:

How to manage them? What to do with double standards, eg: letting an intense ping-pong fall through due to “real life intervening” but feeling bad if the other person does it, etc…

  • sometime the exchanges get interrupted
    • “real life” intervenes
    • and we sometime forget/don’t manage to get back to it for a while
  • how to ask what happened if the other person disappears?
    • open ended questions/conversations work better
    • it’s nicer to respond properly
    • “ping”
  • “and then real life happens” (during digital conversations)
  • “modern chat/communication systems are made to create compulsion”
  • “what’s in the moment/present ends up being more important” (or at least urgent)
    • prioritizing the present
    • urgent vs. important
  • “how does it feel for you” (if X happens/etc)
    • find out what the other one needs to feel loved/wanted… “what do you need to feel loved/wanted”
    • “I don’t want to know if they’ve read my messages and didn’t answer, it sucks”
    • “it’s ever worse if they were online but haven’t read my messages”
  • meta-communication, communication about how to communicate

Children and living together:

  • it’s easy to avoid things you SHOULD not avoid when having children, you have a good reason/excuse
  • find ways to have “adult time apart” (from co-parents and children)
  • dating someone with children
    • it allows for default “leave and take lots of space” (meaning they will have lots of time when they cannot date you, if you like that)
  • several parents/adult per child would be great
    • re-creating the idea of a village
  • “is it ethical to want to ship babies to other grown ups”
    • (the consensus was: hell yeah)
  • “adopt a parent/child” (for people that want to experience it/support)
  • note to self: ask more around about alternative communities/living possibilities
    • FKK camping grounds/living communities

Inequality of time requests:

It was presented as “dating people in a demanding system”

  • children that require lots of time from their mother
    • aged 14 and 18
  • alternatively, wanting to invest all your time/attention
    • getting slightly maniac/not sleeping for days when you’ve met someone new
    • “not necessarily that healthy”
  • “can we have some time without the kids?”
    • “did you request/express your need for time?”
    • children feeling that if they like a new partner, they are betraying the other parent
    • “if I like you, I am liking my father less”
  • different needs from different partners
  • if I need something and I don’t get it… are there consequences?
    • if I go on for years, and only complain: do I really need it?
  • “how does the partner talks about you/me to their children?”
  • “I used to love dating mothers, having by default only limited time allocated to me”
  • “how do you enter/find your space in a demanding system?”
    • deciding together how much quality time is needed/available
    • what does “quality time” mean for you?
  • 3 pillars of relationships/attitude to relationships: generosity, curiosity, humor

Making up when long distance

Sometime, long distance relationships just go great. All is fine. Lots of exchanges, lots of time thinking about the other person…
but when there is a conflict, it can be harder to find peace, you cannot hug/see the other person/have sex/what have you.

  • try a phone-call without words/talking
  • “ban on text fights”
    • use email
    • voice messages
    • phone calls, AFTER the anger subsided (you don’t want a shouting match, trust me)
  • different conflict styles
    • it’s harder when people are apart
    • some people need to fight it out, other just to soother
    • “you don’t need to be nasty to each other to show that your relationship is strong”
    • fight it out vs. be nice
  • don’t delay the conflict/talking about the problem
  • having something from the other person to smell is nice (reminds of physicality)
    • piece of clothing
    • teddy bear
  • learn to be able to talk a bit about a problem, getting it into the light, without having to resolve it completely NOW
  • accept that “it doesn’t feel well yet, but there will be a solution”
  • “is there a problem?” if you feel there is
    • own it’s mindreading
    • even if there isn’t, the fact you feel there could be means something
  • possibility: using a coach/support system in distance conflicts/relationships
    • no one had tried
  • regular check-ins/state of the union
    • easier than having to ask to confront a problem
  • ritual of re-appreciation (daily/etc)
    • like gratitude, but re: something you/the other person did
    • “today I did X…”, “today you did Y…”
    • something active, not “it was sunny”

Distance and getting to know each other

  • “I don’t want to get to know each other via texts”
  • alternatives
    • be artistic
    • exchange essences/perfumes
    • notes/paper letters
    • channel your inner romantic poet/15 year old
    • become very creative again
  • share as much as you want/need
    • maybe check if wanted/needed/appreciated
  • drag on the pleasure of getting to know each other
    • “I normally devour it in 3 days of we tell each other everything, but it can be nice to expand it”
  • getting to know/discover each other via exchanges
    • “how did you react to what I just showed you?”

Does this work? Is it interesting? Is it worth the effort?

Past and possible topics

I keep a list of (possible) topics for relationship cookbooks, and realized I could just as well keep it here.

NB: there are some repetition for now

Relationship related:

Already happened (it doesn’t mean we won’t do it again)

spacetime: together/separate/long distance and all that: FB event, post

summer & festival season: FB event, post

trust & safety: FB event, post

compulsory compersion? FB event, post

commitments: FB event, post

consent and agreements: FB event,

family and friends: FB event, post

navigating NRE: FB event, post

open relationship cookbook: FB event, post

community: FB event, post

(un)common grounds: FB event, post

ricettario per le relazioni (aperte), our first event ever: FB event, post

Future possibilities

stakeholders in relationships

relationship with yourself

traumas and triggers

rules & agreements

(un) natural (?) hyerarchies

rules, agreements, freedom

long term

fighting fair

changes: breaking up, escalating, tranforming

dating parents

being parents

getting close: first dates, activities, questions, NRE

“it used to be a problem until…”

sex and spirituality

differences: libido, involvement, age, desires…

exploration vs. exploitation

drama & attitudes to drama

black, white, shades of grey

“so long, and thank you for…”: breaking up (or not), taking breaks

“you don’t support me when I have a problem/you try to control me with your problems”

“I cannot like someone that likes someone like me”

working with kinks/having kinks/sharing/communicating/discovering

asymmetries

the art of breaking up

kinks and life

“houserules”: my/our rules for life/relationships/everything

being in a relationship: for couples (triads, polycules), not for bickering

Conversations down there

This was the “let’s talk about sex” evolution of the cookbook

conversations down there, general: FB event

ejaculation: male, female, exploring, extending, avoiding…

initiating sex

the bureau of sexual fantasies fulfilment

Not specifically about relationships

dharma cookbook: techniques exchange and chat. FB event

insomniacs’ toolbox: FB event

psychonaut toolbox #1: Fb event

how not to kill plants

shibari and ropes and…

investing and finances

body: health, sanity, …

Xplore Berlin!

I am hosting a relationship cookbook at Xplore Berlin, three times the same topic: Touch and Politics, how society, activism, touch, sexuality interact.

(of course, it’s never the same, since every time there are new people, different ideas, different dynamics)

The topic:

What’s the interaction between what we do with our bodies, to our and other bodies, and the social body out there? 
Do we have a duty to change the world, just to resist unwanted change, or…what?

Also: what is touch for us? What do we consider political?
In what way our natural way of touching/wanting to be touched informed our political ideas, in what way our political ideas inform what touch we allow in our life?

Come and find out with us…