I love when the blog can be a dialogue, and I love talking about my relationship...
Hyde, whenever you are ready, throw your thoughts my way and I'll be happy to reply. And if you don't want to ask or opine on the blog, you have my e-mail address.
Cody - I'm glad you found my blog after my depression then. Strangely, I had more readers when I was depressed...or more commenters which I know is not the same thing...but I also needed/wanted more reasurance. I loved the Ponyboy reference. It's been a long time since I've thought about that book!
Bargain - if you ever need more clarification, you know where you can come. I am more than happy to share.
Aravis - thanks for your comments...the regard is mutual.
Hammer...left to last because this will be my longest response. I think these are good and common questions that I've experienced from others. I don't feel judged by you, as I sense that these questions are coming out of a place of interest or concern for me.
As regards S and his choice to have more than one partner - I knew this going in. He has never been anything but upfront about his relationship with me. I also made a choice, at a certain point, to choose to close off that option for myself unless he wishes to allow me to pursue it. Knowing him as I do, I'm pretty clear that the circumstances would be extaordinary for him to do so. As LB says, S seems to be doing okay out of it. But why does that mean that I have to have or want to have what he has. I know that he has love for me and regard for me, and this is what's important to me in this relationship.
Wouldn't I love to have him just devoted to me? No because that's not who he is. He would not be happy exclusively devoted to one person. To force him to do so would change who he is...making him a different man than who I met and love. I'm not entirely sure that polyamory favors men more, as I know a lot of women who are polyamorous, although that is the common misconception which goes along with our patriarchal experience of the world. It doesn't have to be this way. It could be just as easily that I had met a woman who wanted to be my mistress and had another she kept. I am bi, after all.
Do I struggle with jealousy, competition, self-esteem, etc? Yes. I'm human. There are times when I want more attention from S when his attention is turned toward SS, or his dance, or teaching, or his family. It is not only SS that is in his life. But this is mine to come to terms with. As far as my self-esteem, I feel as though he has built this up in me...he has challenged me to think of myself as a beautiful, sexy woman; he has challenged me to actively build my practice; he has expanded my experience of life. These are things, goddess forbid the relationship should end, that I will always have for myself. I am more aware of my strengths than I have ever been. If this is settling, then more people should be so lucky.
And now on to the issue that can be the hardest for people to understand: why would I, a strong, beautiful, feminist woman, put myself into a relationship in which I give my right to choose away? First, it is never taken away, I gave it up. Knowing that, I know that I can take it back...I just choose not to. I have long had a fantasy that I could go back in time to live in a time when decisions were not mine to make. Of course, it isn't that easy, but the sense of relief that I felt in regards to this fantasy was powerful. As a therapist, I'm well aware of the many psychological reasons for this. I won't go into them here.
When I was searching for someone to date, I also would find that I was incredibly turned on by ads that included dom/sub dynamics. When I first contracted with S, this was a time-limited experiment. It felt safe to do this because I could look at the calendar and there was an endpoint. This allowed me the chance to get to know S, to see that he is a man who I would want as a partner, who is compassionate and caring, who compliments my desire for kink, and who is going to want me to be the best me I can be. This allowed me a chance to experience what he could give me, in addition to testing what I was willing to give him. And now I have this wonderful relationship while indulging my own desire to give over control. This makes me want to wiggle like a little puppy!
I would ask you to challenge some of your assumptions, Hammer. I actually feel that S is incredibly committed to me. I believe that our relationship is evolving rapidly and moving forward. As for intimacy, this challenges me, but it would challenge me more in a relationship that did not have boundaries that made me feel safe. This one has incredibly safe boundaries for me. Just because I do not want things in the same way as the cultural norm, does not mean that there is not a healthy progression. What I have found is an incredibly mutual relationship, as my desire to submit matches his to dominate...just as many of our other interests seem to segue quite nicely.
For anyone interested in reading on the subject...try "Different Loving," or for a more scholarly take on BDSM (including M/s relationships), check out Vol 50 (issue 1 or 2, I can't remember) of the Journal of Homosexuality. It devoted an entire issue to these issues. For more on Polyamory there is "Loving More" or the resources at the Alternative to Marriage Project's website.
Addendum for Hyde! Yay, this is cool.
Regarding poly stuff, I really didn't have much experience with it (except to see how it didn't work for HippyChick at one point), so I wasn't sure of how it would work. My experience of it with S is that it is working out well.
I actually don't believe that I'm losing myself in this relationship. I feel that I'm exploring lot's of new things that I wouldn't necessarily have chosen to explore, but then I wasn't choosing to explore much previously. I've always known that I tend towards inertia :).
As for body image...I'm talking more about my body image lately, but this is not a new issue for me. You may remember a post that I did when I was very depressed. It was about my experience of my body as I grew up. I've always thought of myself as fat, even when I was younger and less heavy. You comment: "I keep getting the sense that you are feeling fat." This is not a feeling, lovely Hyde, it is a reality. I have not seen a weight below 200 in over 10 years. My current BMI is very close to the one that would qualify me for bariatric surgery. To quote the title of a lovely book, "Wake up, I'm fat!"
What has changed is that I can look at my body and see it as beautiful and fat. I can allow myself to feel outrage that I can be made to feel like I might crush my lover (who honestly prefers it when I'm on top). I can express my frustration at not being able to find a range of options for active wear in my size. I can do all of this while not giving in to the urge to diet as I have done in the past. I honestly lay a part of the blame for my past depression at the door of having lost a bunch of weight and finding out that it didn't solve my problems and make me happy.
As for S, he really does like my body. S is incredibly fit. He hikes, bikes, does trapeze work several times a week, swims, etc. He would like to share these things with me, and is incredibly careful of going at my pace. But his preference would be to go at his pace and have me share in those activities with him. Again the reality is that I am not as fit as he. There was a time before my depression where I was much more active. My purpose for starting this was to lose weight. It did work, but what I found even more wonderful was how good it felt to exercise and have increased stamina. I liked moving my body. But then I stopped. I gave in to the inertia of depression for almost a year. This depleted my stamina and now I have to work and be motivated to get back to enjoying this.
The reality is that I don't like feeling fatigued by just walking around my neighborhood. I would like to be able to go on an hour hike without feeling like the day is shot. And this is something that I can change, but increasing my activities. It's an added bonus that this is something that S has told me would feel like a gift to him as well. So what you may be experiencing as S making me feel bad for not being as active as he, feels to me more like the consequence of being in the life of someone who is more active than I at a time when I don't have the greatest stamina.
I do think that our assumptions about a healthy relationship and the decisions behind that relationship are so interesting. Is it healthier to engage in a behavior that feels safe and allows me to be happy, even though it looks like an unhealthy configuration to others, or to give in to what culture tells me is healthier, even if it leaves me feeling that something is missing? I'll take the first...as a therapist, I wouldn't rule out that I'm delusional :P