July 15, 2011
Welcome back to those of you who caught the first part of my interview with the ever fabulous Samantha Fraser. As promised today, I’m bringing you a second installment of Secrets From the Goody Drawer, with even more of her awesome brand of ethical sluttiness.
Yes, it’s challenging for me when my husband is with other people, because from my point of view I can be absolutely everything to you. But at the same time I tell myself “but you can’t be everything to me.” That seems to be a double standard; one that I need to immediately address by thinking about the friends I have in my life.
Skye: In your post Gooooooo Team! you speak about not feeling like you’re enough for your husband and your struggle to come to terms with the fact that his desire to be around other people is not about the fact that the people he wants to be with aren’t you, but because they as individuals add value to his life by virtue of who they are. Although you were addressing this issue from the context of an open marriage, I know that there are more than a few women (and men) who have similar feelings when their partners choose to spend time with their friends – regardless of gender – or even just pursue a hobby without them. What words of encouragement or advice can you offer to people grappling with the same issues?
SF: I love this question! What I personally have to remind myself of is to look at my friends and the people I surround myself with. Yes, it’s challenging for me when my husband is with other people, because from my point of view I can be absolutely everything to you. But at the same time I tell myself “but you can’t be everything to me.” That seems to be a double standard; one that I need to immediately address by thinking about the friends I have in my life.
I think about the people in my life that I see just once a year, which is fine. I have friends that I just go to the movies with, or just go dancing with, or to karaoke with. I have all these people in my life for different purposes. My advice to other people is to take a look at all the people in your life and ask yourself what their roles are. Why do you have Johnny over here, and Sally over there? What’s their reason for being in your life and is it ok that not one friend does everything? (Though yes, sometimes they do.) It’s just one of those things where your knee-jerk reaction is to tell yourself is that you are everything for your partner, whether you’re open or not. You have to stop and just tell yourself “Hey, I’ve got all these people in my life, so maybe it’s ok that they have other people in theirs.”
Skye: In that same post you also speak of the strength and clarity we can attain by gaining control of our insecurities and owning up to them. Can you expand on that idea?
SF: (laughs) Uhhmm…Yes. Everybody has insecurities and not a lot of people like to admit that. I know people who haven’t admitted theirs and I know people who have, and I find that those who have are living happier lives. Maybe these are just observations from my own life and they aren’t the norm. But I find personally that by owning my insecurities; saying I am not comfortable with this thing in my life, or this particular body issue, I am able to realize the things that are just part of my personality that I’m not able to change. Or know that something is a part of who I am that I can change, and accept that it’s going to be a process. Doing that helps to keep me grounded.
On the other hand if I don’t admit my insecurities they can fester and creep up on me. For example, if I say to someone “Hey, I don’t like my butt” then my butt doesn’t have any power over me. When you own your insecurities you take (at least some of) the power away from them. That’s not to say you’re not going to or are not allowed to feel them, but simple acknowledgment of their existence can be a powerful feeling.
Skye: What do you believe are the most significant ingrained social behaviours/conventions that prevent people from being comfortable with exploring open and/or non-monogamous relationships?
SF: The first thing that comes to mind is what we were talking about previously; the sort of unspoken acceptance of cheating. And that I think is the biggest one. We’re so okay with people cheating that the idea of someone doing it with permission is something we can’t get over.
The second fact is that we do expect one person to be our everything, and we push that in society. We are still pushing the marriage ideal of being with someone forever and ever because you should, instead of enjoying someone for the time that you have them down our throats. Instead we should be encouraging people to find out what works best for them. Maybe for a lot of people it is monogamy, and for others, alternative relationships.
I think it’s kind of a beautiful thing to acknowledge that a relationship is good for the time that you have it for. But we put such emphasis on longevity, rather than just accepting people for who they are. There are always these expectations. When you meet somebody, you examine their job to see if they’ll be a good provider, what’s their family like and how is this relationship going to last long term. All of that happens instead of just focusing on how they make you feel or how much you might or might not enjoy their company.
Going back to your earlier question about the benefits of non-monogamy for a second, one of the main benefits for me personally is that I don’t have to worry about all that stuff. I can just enjoy someone for who they are as a person. Non-monogamy has totally helped me stay more focused on the present, which I think is a good thing. Yes, you do have to plan for the future, but there is definitely more to life than just that.
Skye: In your Non-Monogamy 101 Tips post you talk about never assuming that your partner “knows what you’re thinking all the time, even if you’re often on the same page” and suggest that couples have ‘state of the union’ check-ups as necessary. Do you think that many people in long term relationships often take it for granted that their partners are on the same page on them with respect to fundamental marriage issues? What tips do you have for people having trouble initiating a state of the union chat with their partner about a tough relationship issue?
SF: Open or not, everybody in a relationship can benefit from having a general check up discussion. We go to the doctor once a year to check up on our health, we go to the dentist to check up on our teeth and we should check up on our relationships. We all go through our own experiences in life. We go to work separately, we have our own friends and blood family members, and if we don’t check in on one another we may miss the fact that feelings have changed. Feelings are always going to change as people grow and adapt. Not necessarily for the worse, but they will…adapt.
I find it quite sad that some people don’t check in with their partners and find out their current “outside of Facebook” relationship status. You can check in and find that all is well, but you can also find that something needs addressing. The thing to remember is that if you do have a state of the union, when having that conversation with your partner, maybe there IS something they haven’t been able to talk about until that moment. So, part B to this is a reminder that some things may have to be talked about and worked through. It’s more than just saying, “Hey, are we okay?” It’s actually being able to handle it if you’re not.
As for the second part of that question, I think my first tip would be to think about what your feelings are on the issue before going to your partner. Give some thought to how you feel, because when they answer in a certain way, you want to have your own clear opinions or at least have taken some time to think about the issue for yourself. And if you don’t know what your thoughts are, admit it. Say, “I’m not sure what’s going on with me, but I’d like to talk to you about [insert your own relationship item here] so we can figure it out together.”
Finally, if you’re going to ask your partner how things are going, you have to be prepared for anything – even the fact that they may say they’re having a tough time or are unhappy. You have to be prepared for that and try your best not to take it personally. Don’t ask the question, or any question, if you’re not ready for a truthful answer. Ask yourself if you are really ready to hear the answer to a given question – whatever it may be – now, or at another time when you’re feeling more comfortable, safe or confident.
The Playground Conference: a multi-faceted look at sexuality & relationships, put on Samantha Fraser and her amazing team, happens this fall in Toronto!
Skye: When it comes to open relationships, and I would imagine any relationship, you believe that “Equality doesn’t mean that each person has to do exactly the same thing. Equality means that each person is treated with equal amounts of respect for their individual wants and needs.” I think that’s a beautiful sentiment, but in your experience does it take a lot of strength/clarity/self-awareness to learn respect your partner’s individual wants and needs when they conflict with your own?
SF: Oh my God. Absolutely. 100%. This was one of the biggest struggles for Steph and I when we first opened up. We were trying to reconcile the fact that there were things that he was okay with me doing that I wasn’t okay with him doing, and the fact that it totally made me feel like a bad person. He was trying to be okay with my discomfort and support me with the things I was uncomfortable with, while dealing with his own feelings of “What the fuck? Why can’t I do this?”
Working through all that has taken many years of reflection. Self-awareness is a really good way to describe it, because we’ve both had to admit the things that we are and are not comfortable with. For example, I’m not comfortable with him being with other people in our bedroom, because our bedroom is my sanctuary. Steph doesn’t look at our bedroom as his sanctuary so he totally has a different feeling about it and it doesn’t bother him as much or at all. But coming to that realization that we feel differently about certain things and that it’s ok took a lot of thinking and a lot of self-awareness for sure.
“Equality doesn’t mean that each person has to do exactly the same thing. Equality means that each person is treated with equal amounts of respect for their individual wants and needs.”
Skye: The Playground Conference you are the Executive Producer of is happening here in Toronto from Nov. 4-6th, and on the website it states that: “Sex and relationships make up a huge part of our individual identities. Everyone has their own ideas and experiences for what works and what doesn’t; what feels good and what leaves them wanting more. How can we learn from one another to help enhance our own play time and build stronger bonds in our relationships?” As you’ve decided to put a major event to promote this idea, you must feel pretty strongly about this issue. Why do you feel it’s so important that we all learn from each other?
SF: One of the things that I’ve read a lot about in the sex community is when society was really starting to open up on a sexual level, people were really uniting and exploring together. Over time lots of individual niches started to pop up. Certain elements of kink were discovered, and so the kinky people would get together, then the Queers would get together, and people started separating out to have their own events, their own communities, their own stuff. I have met many people who aren’t heavily involved in any one community, but they dabble in a lot of different areas. Maybe they’re interested in exploring a wide variety of sexuality angles; say BDSM, queer sex or even non-monogamy. And perhaps the idea of going to an event that’s strictly focused on just any one of those things may be a little terrifying for them.
The main motivation behind Playground is to give everyone in those communities, as well as the average Joe Schmoe a place to experiment and open their mind to different ideas, without having to feel totally overwhelmed or out of their depths. We’re going to have a good mix of panel presentations and workshops, and it’s a to be a great place for all to come together to see what we can all learn from one another.
Skye: Are you still looking for speakers? If so, how can someone who’s interested in presenting at the conference apply?
SF: I am still looking for some speakers. All my presentation spots are full, but we have a couple of spots open where we could benefits from a few more people on panels. I’m at 75% of what we need for the panels, so just a few more people would help.
If someone is interested in participating they can email at Samantha at playgroundconf dot com, and when they email me they need to let me know what it is they are passionate about and perhaps what their past speaking experiences have been and I can see if there is a spot for them.
Skye: You are also helping to organize the upcoming Digifest. For the sake of our readers who aren’t already in the know, can you tell me what it’s all about?
SF: Digifest is a five day festival, happening from October 26-30, that is focused on the culture of digital media, in Toronto and worldwide. There’s actually a lot of synergy, things that are mirrored between Digifest and Playground. Where Playground is focused a lot different communities together where we can learn from each other in the sex world and relationships, Digifest is focused on how we can look at media and culture and see what people are doing in various disciplines that utilize digital media in order to find out what we can learn from each other.
Digifest is made up of about 15 different events all across the city. It’s a pretty major conference that will have all kinds of events open to the general public and industry professionals. It’s going to be quite huge. I just wish it wasn’t happening the week before Playground. I’m going to be a zombie!
Skye: Currently, you’re writing a book, in the midst of planning two pretty big conferences, running sexuality workshops and dealing with the demands of an open marriage. You are one busy lady. What is it that keeps you going?
SF: I’m slightly deranged. (laughs)…I live for variety: for making my own life better, to make other people’s lives better, and to bring people together. When I get a letter from someone that says, “You wrote a blog post the other day that really resonated with me and put into words what I was thinking” it’s great. I love that kind of stuff. It really really drives me.
Skye: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
SF: I’m often asked what my one tip would be for someone who is considering non-monogamy, so I’ll share my thoughts on that. For anyone considering it I would say you really need to get to know yourself. Part of doing that includes asking yourself tough questions, for example “How do I feel about my partner touching someone else? Is it something that I want to think about or am I okay not thinking about it?” Then you need to be okay with the answers or at least okay with the fact that you are not comfortable with the answers, if that makes sense.
There are so many more tips I could give, but that’s the one I think is really key for people to do before choosing to have an open relationship. Never assume, always ask questions, be prepared to be more honest than you have ever been before.
And remember that Google Calendar is your best friend.