Your Partner May Be A Different Person With Someone Else, And That’s Okay

My wife largely busies herself around the house in her hobbies; she quilts. She gardens. She watches a little TV, drinks some wine.

She does not ski. She does not go hiking. She does not go camping.

Which is weird, because she used to do a lot of that.

When she was married to her ex-husband, she spent pretty much all her free time out in the wilderness, doing these great expeditions. She tells grand stories of stumbling across bear spoor, of almost drowning in canoes, grand adventures that seem pretty pale compared to who she is today.

The reason she was that person, of course, was because her husband was an inveterate outdoorsman, a relentless athlete who got anxious when he couldn’t run. And she loved going outdoors, and his enthusiasm kindled hers, and when you have an eager partner who loves doing what you do, well, then you do it.

We don’t go skiing because I’m not into it. There have been no fights about this; we tried it a couple of times, I fell over a lot, and she didn’t want to go alone even though I was perfectly okay with her doing so.

She just… cruised to a stop.

Yet her ex would probably be shocked to see her going out to cocktail bars as much as we do, savoring exotic foods, because he wasn’t nearly the foodie that I was and she loves that too. We geek out on Star Wars, Steven Universe, and The Good Place in ways that he never would have understood. And our annual Oscar trip to see all the Best Picture nominees was Gini’s idea, but her ex wouldn’t have been into it.

She’s got fundamental portions of her personality that don’t change, of course. But if I died, and she found a partner who loved dancing – something neither her ex nor I were into – I suspect she’d become an avid dancer.

And that’s not just her. My Mom used to watch a lot of reality television because my stepdad liked Ice Road Truckers; since he passed on, now she doesn’t. If I dated someone who loved Magic: the Gathering – which my wife does not – I’d probably become someone who went on the PTQ circuit and made weekend trips to Grand Prixs in other states.

We’re all mutable. And it’s not anything we’re suppressing; it’s that some partners bring out aspects of our lives that are just more fun when we have someone to share them with. I suppose my Mom could watch Ice Road Truckers alone, but what fun would that be without my stepdad there to provide ascerbic commentary?

Which frequently weirds people out when they dip their toe into polyamory.

In a lot of cases, your partner will date someone who is unlike you – which is a good sign! They’ve got all the you they want! Why would they want more you when they’re full up?

But it does mean that sometimes, you’re watching your partner become someone you didn’t know they *could* be. Maybe they’re a lot snarkier because you don’t like sarcasm but this new partner loves zingers. Maybe their long-buried love of videogames rises up now that they have someone to Twitch-stream with. Maybe they’re getting new experiences in bed that you didn’t display an interest in; maybe they’re drug-friendlier.

That can be terrifying, especially if you’ve known them for years and you thought you had them down. But you didn’t.

You just knew who they were when they were with you.

And sometimes, those changes are the sign of impending trouble or a partner lost in New Relationship Energy – if they’re kinder to your new partner than they ever were to you, or more attentive, then that’s probably something that needs to be dealt with. You don’t want to tolerate someone treating you as less worthy of respect.

Yet mostly, it’s often just kind of a weird shock, watching a different dynamic at play. They see different bands than you do. They develop their own secret shorthands of language. And that can feel alienating at times.

The trick is not to panic, though. If they’re still the same person they are with you, and the changes your partner is having don’t permeate your relationship, that’s probably just another facet of their personality revolving into glintspace. Part of stable polyamorous relationships is understanding that yeah, maybe they’ll get more kink from their new partner, but what do they get from you?

You don’t necessarily have to compete by trying to be the kinkiest, or to drag yourself out dancing every night, or otherwise entering into a competition that you’re likely to lose anyway. You just have to focus on what you bring to the table. Because it’s easy to forget that they do the hard kinky shit with the other partner, but it’s you they go back home to express their cuddlier, gentler side – and that is also valuable.

And sometimes, you discover things you can press yourself a little on. If you see how jazzed they get by having someone to play board games with, maybe pushing yourself to haul out the Kill Doctor Lucky set from the closet once in a while isn’t a bad thing for your relationship.

Point is, allowing your partner to have healthy relationship with other people – friends or lovers or family – will often allow other portions of their personalities to flourish. It’s okay. You also nurture parts of who they are, and as long as the things you’re encouraging are positive parts of them, then there’s no need to ensure you’re being EVERYTHING for them that EVERYONE could provide all the time.

You’re special. Trust in that. Even when you feel bad that you suck – I mean, really suck – at skiing.

Why Bisexual Women Aren’t Replying To Your Couples Ad: Some Tips

“We’ve opened up our marriage and are looking for a third person to date,” says every other kinky personal ad ever. “We’d like an attractive bisexual woman who needs to fall in love with both of us, simultaneously, at the same rate. We’re hot and 420-friendly. The door’s open, ladies!”

Tumbleweeds blow across the plaintive desert of this ad. Nobody answers, except for the creepy dudes who reply to every post offering sex anywhere whether that sex is meant for them or not.

This hot-and-pot couple will go tragically unbethreesomed.

Yet there’s good reason for this! Most experienced bisexual women don’t want to date a fresh-off-the-boat couple, for very good reasons. So if you’d like to understand why your proposed relationship is unappealing, and perhaps proactively address some of these concerns, well… let’s discuss why dating as a couple is hard on the woman.

Reason #1: Dating’s Tricky Enough When You Only Have To Be Attracted To One Person.
You know those days when you’re swiping through Tinder like you’re scrolling through Netflix movies, and nobody seems attractive? Those days where if you’re lucky, one out of ten people seem worth swiping right on?

Okay. Now imagine that Tinder is pairing people up randomly. Wanna date this one girl? You also have to hang out with her friend WHO ALWAYS TALKS IN ALL CAPS AND NEVER SHUTS UP ABOUT HOW KANYE WEST IS HER TRUE 100 SPIRIT GUIDE.

Much, much harder to swipe right when it’s a package deal.

And it’s not like, you know, bisexual hot women are short on options. You might be willing to cut a few corners if you can get that mystical threesome-love-magic you’re questing for – but to them, your offer is a lot closer to the background radiation of their lives, where they literally have someone trying to rope them into a threesome every day.

So they have zero need to approach someone who looks like they might be annoying. And you *do* look annoying, because…

Reason #2: Imbalanced Attractions Exacerbate Jealousy.
Let’s say the bisexual woman tries dating the both of you! And you’re totally into her.

She is marginally into you.

But she fucking loves your partner.

Every time you go out together, she spends 80% of her time laughing at your partner’s jokes, touching your partner’s knee, squeeing because she loves that band your partner loves but you could never get into, and basically making you feel completely alienated in your own relationship.

And you talk to your sweetie – the old sweetie – and they’re like, “This is a great relationship I have with her, she’s not opposed to you, why are you fucking it up for me?”

What then?

Now, it’s possible that you find a bisexual woman who’s equally into both of you, but that’s rare. Usually there’s a bit more chemistry on one side than another – maybe not an unmanageable chemistry, but it’s like when you get a cat together and the cat clearly has a favorite person to hang with.

If you’re not really confident in your love for each other, that difference in chemistry can feel like a threat. Which often leads to draconian attempts to balance that chemistry – demands of restricted time, or of mandated time where the bisexual woman has to try to find deeper feelings for the partner on the outs, or bizarre rules about touching or laughter or bedroom antics designed to ensure that the partner who feels not as included is catered to.

In other words, it’s generally not the less-chemistried partner who has to change their behavior to adapt to the changes the third person’s caused – it is, in fact, the outside partner who has to change to keep the couple intact. Which is a weird way of saying, “Hey, bisexual woman, your desires are not as important as our needs as a couple.” Which in fact leads to….

Reason #3: Couples Often Treat The Third Person As Expendable.
So let’s say your bisexual partner comes in and has needs of their own.

“That’s good!” you cry. “We want to dote on our new partner! Ask for the world, honey!”

…and their needs conflict with yours. Maybe they want to stop pretending to be your “friend” in front of your very conservative family, maybe they need emotional support at times that are inconvenient for you as a couple, maybe they need to stop having sexy threesomes for a while because of medical concerns, maybe they need you to stop dating still other people to focus on them.

“It just didn’t work out,” the couple says sadly.

And the ugly truth is, that when a couple starts hunting for a third partner, that third partner is quietly viewed as a nice-to-have – you want this extra partner, sure, but nothing’s worth causing strife between the original hubby and wife.

So if one partner feels threatened by a need from this new partner, guess who gets the boot?

Experienced bisexual women will trade stories of well-meaning couples who treated them as an experiment – they wanted to see what happened when they brought in a third, and it didn’t quite work out, and when all was said and done the third was tossed unceremoniously out onto the street but the couple had learned a Valuable Lesson About Themselves, and wasn’t that worth the experience?

It was not for the third partner, who fell in love and had that love fired by nepotism.

And look. I’m not saying that as a couple, you have to break up to placate a third. What I am saying is that too many couples treat their third partners as a nice-to-have, like a luxury Corvette that can be sold in times of trouble. These couples expect that any stresses in the relationship will be borne exclusively by the external partner, and if they are expected to do some reflection or negotiation or restructuring, that’s the sign it’s time to end this troublesome relationship.

And again. Bisexual women can afford to be picky.

So why would they find this appealing?

It is, of course, difficult to convince someone that you’re not like those other couples. But before you place that ad, ask yourself: *are* we like these other couples? If you’re really ready to open up your relationship, are you willing to adapt to the needs of other people, or are you just seeking a fling?

If you want a fling, try the swingers’ club. It still might provoke jealousy. But at least at the swingers’ club, you weren’t promising your potential partners anything more than an enjoyable fuck.

Be honest.

Reason #4: Your One-Penis Policy Is Probably Sexist As Fuck
I wrote about this extensively in my essay All Women And Never Men, which you should probably read in full before you defend the process – but to summarize:

* Most One-Penis Policies are made because the dude is insecure about other men, so he’ll “generously” allow his wife to have sex with other women as long as it turns him on;
* Which doesn’t threaten him because women don’t have real relationships – for an actual bond, you need a penis;
* Those policies all too often – not always, but far too often – lead to a relationship that only works so long as the man is completely satisfied, and the minute the dude has to process jealousy or dissatisfaction, the relationship collapses.

I mean, some OPPs work out because the woman genuinely doesn’t want any other male partners – and that is wonderful. But most of them are shadowed by this concern where the woman isn’t seeking other male partners because their man would get jealous if she did, and multi-partner relationships aren’t about removing jealousy.

(They’re about recognizing that jealousy is an emotion like any other – sometimes you realize it’s an irrational emotion, sometimes you change the relationship to diminish that unpleasant emotion, and sometimes you realize this emotion means this relationship isn’t going to work out.)

So What Now?
I’ve told you a lot of negatives. Now here’s the truth:

A lot of the reasons bisexual women aren’t receptive to these ads are because the ad itself means you don’t see them as a person, but rather a position to be filled.

If you really want to add a third, then a lot of the advice comes down to “See them as a person. Don’t expect them to make your lives magical, then eject them when they fail at that role.” I know a fair number of couples who did find that third, but they generally did so by meeting in person, talking extensively, a slow process that involved a lot of self-reflection and self-awareness.

As with so much else about dating, sometimes the answer to “Why can’t I find a date?” is “You need to work on yourself to become more desirable as a person.” And in this particular case, the desirability comes from showing people that you can make a genuine space for them in your relationship.

Good luck.

Listen To Me Talk About What’s Wrong With Society For Half An Hour!

So the folks at Kinkycast saw my FetLife essay “How Do You Deal With All These Angry Comments?” and invited me on to discuss how to bring a little civility to your comments section. Which led to some interesting discussions on why angry men try to drive women off the Internet, and how those men get roped into believing MRA-style bullshit, and how the anonymity the Internet offers is changing society.

Interesting stuff, say I.

So anyway, if you’ve got thirty minutes free and feel like hearing me opine, I am opinating here, on their episode #250, which is great because I love big anniversary numbers.

Go check it out!

Requiring Perfect Communication Is Another Way Of Asking You To Shut Up

“I want to help you, I do,” the nobly saddened partner says. “But you keep asking for help wrong. When you’re upset, you get mad, and when you get mad you get quite irrational, and when you’re irrational I’m not under any obligation to listen.

“So what you need to do when I’ve erred is to refine your communication. Because I can’t help you if you’re forever blundering across my sensitive spots!”

SPOILER: This is a person who will never help you.

Look, I’m by no means saying that “learning to speak your needs more clearly” isn’t a vital thing in relationships. Nor am I saying that stumbling through in arm-flailing upset, paying zero attention to who you’re elbowing in their emotional eye, is life goals.

But I am saying that any relationship has to be able to tolerate imperfections. Because when you hurt someone – and you may, accidentally, even with the best of intentions – expecting them to react like harmless porcelain dolls is a form of control.

Because sometimes you hurt someone and they’re reduced to incoherent tears, unable to tell you what they need because they’re melting down inside, except they don’t want to be held and they need you to do something now but they can’t get the words out.

Sometimes you hurt someone and they snap, not phrasing things with clean precision but raising their voice and claiming you “always” or “never” do things and ripping off a hurtful insinuation or two.

Sometimes you hurt someone and they’re so hurt they retreat into silence, sulking as they swirl everything over and over in their minds, trying to determine whether this is worth talking about and maybe it’s just them and even if it isn’t how will they phrase their eventual complaint?

None of those things are ideal, of course. And if they crop up routinely, then that’s a communication pattern that needs to be addressed. Nobody’s saying that you should put up with unending misfires in communication.

But there is a type of person who looks at your pain and stands aloof, claiming that your pain isn’t their problem until you cease all this imperfect discussion and speak to them in the proper way.

Which is another way of saying “It doesn’t matter how badly I screw up, but you have to be perfect.”

And this sort of person exerts a continual control, because they’re wandering about stepping on ancient traumas and stretching boundaries and breaking unspoken agreements in ways that seem almost designed to cause major meltdowns. They’re acting in ugly ways that should cause upset, and yet refusing to take responsibility for that pain until it’s laid as neatly at their feet as a five-star concierge presenting a bill.

Real relationships allow for a little messiness, ya know?

And strangely, these “I won’t handle your upset until you’re nice to me” folks often date people with a history of trauma, homing in on people who are stunned into incoherence whenever their boundaries are crossed, which allows them to dance away from responsibility whenever they push another button.

Here’s the truth: expecting everyone to be kind to you when you’ve been cruel to them is a way of exerting power. Jabbing at someone’s sensitive spots and then demanding they calm down before you’ll take responsibility for them is a shitty way of prioritizing placid words over damaging behavior.

In grown-up relationships, sometimes you hurt someone and, in responding, they hurt you back. And sometimes you suck that hurt down temporarily because yes, they’ve put your fur up, but the person you wounded is in more pain than you are. And demanding that they always drop everything to cater to your needs is a way of saying, “It doesn’t matter what I do to you, I come first.”

And if you hang around these people long enough, what you’ll find are beaten-down hangers-on. They’ve stopped reacting when their partners hurt them because they’ve internalized that idea that they’re not good enough, that they’re swinging wildly out of control and hence they need to cling on to this nice, stable partner because they never get upset, they always have the right words, they don’t overreact.

What these poor, benighted souls never ask is, “Is this person calm because they’re enlightened, or are they calm because they’re secretly getting everything they want out of this relationship?”

But it’s a question worth asking. Because seeking perfection is a delightful goal.

Demanding it is often a twisted way of requesting silence.


The Sol Majestic!My upcoming novel The Sol Majestic is the best thing I’ve ever written – and may be the best thing I’ll ever write. If you’ve liked my other books, I’m pretty sure you’ll like this one; if you haven’t liked my other books because they didn’t feel like the guy you know from this blog, then I urge you to give The Sol Majestic a try.

My initial pitch for The Sol Majestic was “Anthony Bourdain meets space opera,” but my editor said it was “Kitchen Confidential meets The Fifth Element by way of Wes Anderson,” and the official tagline says “a big-hearted intergalactic adventure for fans of Becky Chambers and The Good Place,” and Seanan McGuire says “It is a feast of a book, with an ingredient list and flavor profile that seems strange, until you sink your teeth into it and realize that it’s what you’ve been hungering for all along, lamb and honey, vanilla ice cream and blackcurrant jam, cinnamon and chicken and rosemary” – which all tells you this is a remarkably difficult book to categorize.

But it’s pretty much as much of Me as I could stuff into a book.

This book’s my baby. I’m proud. And I want to celebrate it – with secret drinks, with signed bookplates, with all the joys I have to offer.