Archive for the ‘Flagrant Ideology’ Category

Disarming the Narcissist – Case Study 2: The Narcissist’s Asshole Attorney

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

“I’ll take a reasonable lawyer with a crazy client over a crazy lawyer with a reasonable client any day.”

These words of wisdom were uttered over coffee one midtown afternoon by my friend C. She was relaying HER attorney’s advice, as I was pouring my heart out over the nonsensical, twilight zone custody case I was embroiled in with my Narcissist ex.

Newsflash: It’s NOT About the Kid

It took me a year and a half and $50K in legal fees, AFTER having agreed to waive child support and single-handedly pay for preschool, to figure this out. It’s actually about keeping YOU – his Narcissistic Supply. The crazy thing is, the Narc and I don’t actually disagree on a lot of parenting decisions, even in the course of settlement discussions. The difference between us and the other fighting parents is that when I agree to something, he quickly finds some way to change it in order to keep arguing. And whenever I evade his attempt to use the kid as a creepy excuse to hang around me, he needs to file a motion and howl at the judge about what a terrible person I am. Why? Well, he was raised in an Arabic Muslim household for one thing, and yes, women in this culture are considered chattel. He was physically abused by his stepmother, who was the housekeeper prior to marrying his father — a father who openly admits that he didn’t love the woman, but needed someone to take care of him after the divorce. Abusive men just LOVE taking the kids from mom upon divorce, only to dump them on a nanny or girlfriend, go figure. Voilà – Cluster B personality disorder (NPD). Narcissist’s don’t actually WANT agreement. They want a fight (aka Supply), and when you give in to the crazy demands he’s put together to spark a fight, they’ll find something else. I was his property, and once I left the house I was out of his control. So custody of our daughter was the way he was going to punish me for my disobedience. It’s a type of stalking, and the state of Tennessee passed a bill in 2018 annotating Title 29 to address this problem clogging up the court system.

Yes, he is a total piece of work. But his attorney was far, far worse. Because this guy had a license to practice law, the ability to translate my ex’s clingy requests into plausible-sounding parenting demands, and no skin in the game – except that he could make more money, the more he stirred up our conflict. I discovered a parallel between the business of being an attorney the business of being a web developer: the newbies will attempt to sell the client on a lot of BS they don’t need so they can inflate the billable hours, and those of us that know what we’re doing and get more work offers than we can handle — we’re just trying to get you and your project out of our hair with ample scalability and backwards compatibility to minimize ongoing maintenance (aka, “keep it simple, stupid”). You get what you pay for. The $200-300/hr lawyer will make scrivener’s errors, stir up conflict, and drive your case to trial. The $500-700/hr lawyer will get documents right in 1-2 drafts, push you towards a deal and save you thousands in misery. The catch is, you don’t get to choose both lawyers in this sticky foursome. I had the high-priced, googleable attorney who took the high road and looked for mechanisms to manage conflict, while he had a younger, more aggressive attorney that seemed desperate to prove something. An attorney whose ill-fitting suits never matched, whose office was at WeWork, and whose personal assistant was (wait for it…) his MOTHER. When push came to shove my attorney did pull some very good moves, and her advice was filled with insightful observations about human nature and conflict. But in many ways I felt like yet another proof of the old adage that nice guys finish last, and she too would at times be blindsided by the sudden 180 the other side would do after we’d made positive headway in negotiations. You need an attorney that has enough clientele that she’s not interested in billing you up the wazoo (which means she IS the sort that negotiates to keep you OUT of court — these are highly sought after), AND who can spot the kind of opposition that wants to prolong the fight. And when she does see it, she must ruthlessly push for the exposure and high costs of a trial.

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Disarming the Narcissist – Case Study 1: The Birthday Party

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018
Narcissus by John William Waterhouse width= Balloons Zena Warrior Princess

Like many Narcs, the one with whom I share a daughter, likes to use the kid as a creepy excuse to impose his presence on me and pick fights. When I wriggle out of it, he takes me to Court. As you can imagine, this is a cripplingly expensive situation for yours truly. But Family Court is a joke, just like the rest of the so-called American Justice System, and the lawyers and judges all make way too much money off it being ineffective to bother changing anything. So most of the time, you must take matters into your own hands, and do so with the precision of a surgeon so as not to damage the kids or your reputation before the Court.

When it was time for my daughter’s 4th birthday, and subsequently her first REAL birthday party with her whole preschool class, the Narc of course wanted to co-host a party. Because I don’t party with people that are incessantly suing me, I declined, which is when his Narc lawyer got involved and the fun began. Kids’ birthday parties are like the caviar of Narcissistic Supply for an NPD dad. Especially if they can get an organized schmuck like me to plan, prep and pay for everything. Ha.

I’m including actual emails, with identifying information removed and names replaced. Here’s a key:

[Yours truly] …………………………. That’s me
[A**hole] ……………………………… My asshole ex
[our daughter]/[dear daughter] …. Our daughter

The Narcissist baits you, but don’t give in

Ever since I left him, the Narc has become superdad, and in true superdad fashion, emailed me a month before the kid’s birthday to see what “our” plans were. Luckily, I had not yet planned anything, so the stakes were flexible.

My firm, detailed and unemotional response citing past visitation patterns and the custody agreement we’d been drafting for the prior year:

The Narc’s Slimy Lawyer

Whenever the Narc knew I wasn’t backing down I’d hear from his attorney. His attorney, whose suits never matched and who’s “office” was at WeWork.com (one of those office-sharing places). And who would look at me like he wanted to fuck me during settlement discussions. He once had to gaul to invite me to do a “settlement talk” without his client present – just him and me. Sheah.

What follows is the long-winded, contradictory email from this slimeball to MY lawyer, suggesting that I’d better spend time with his client if I want to see my kid at ALL on her birthday, or they’ll file a motion:

Shakespeare was totally right when he said “First, we must kill all the lawyers”. They will lie and threaten even when they know their client is the asshole in the situation. Cuz they’re getting paid to. So I had a predicament.

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On Hiring Male Escorts

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
david B was not the first professional I’d been with. The first was J, whom I’d met years before, in London, at my first orgy. I didn’t hire J — we took a liking to each other at the party, and he informed me as we chatted, that he did escort work. I’m sure if I was supposed to pay he would have said so, but if I’d had to I don’t think I’d have been interested.

Some ten years later, I sought out B in the midst of my separation from my daughter’s father. Like anyone going through a divorce, I was an emotional wreck – too much of a wreck to manage dating or be dateable. I’d rebounded into a couple of exes, with mixed results. I wanted to get off, and get off well, but without any emotional obligation to anyone, or pressure to go further than I was ready to.

So I browsed backpage.com for a few months before mustering the gumption to contact B. His profile had caught my eye a few times, and with time I observed updates to his photos, details – at one point the addition of a website. This struck me as a sign of safety – for in this age of digital paper trails, should he be an axe-murderer, the profile would surely disappear after having committed anything suspect using it. Right? I didn’t know. I decided to send him a message requesting to book a massage.

He responded via email and then we moved to text message. He wanted a photo of me, which I sent. His messages appeared cautious. It got me thinking – in a society where their profession is illegal and socially ostracized, they have just as much reason to be scared. Having lived in Holland during my twenties, where the sex-workers have a union and healthcare, this saddened me. It was also comforting to know the person on the other end of the transaction was just as nervous. We arranged that I would come to his apartment for an hour-long appointment. As I recall it cost around $180.

On the day of, I texted a couple of friends that I was going to do this, and that if they didn’t hear from me by 6pm, they should call the police and send them to the address I’d been given.

Whenever I start to do something that unnerves me, I tell myself with each step “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. At any moment, you can say no and turn around and leave.” These were my thoughts as he buzzed me into the building.

It was like visiting any other friend’s place. The building was nicer than the one I lived in, but not immodest. Warm tones, decent light and lots of original woodwork. He was talkative, to a slightly nervous degree. He had a massage table already open in the center of his living room, one wall of which, was entirely mirrored. We discussed what I wanted, which was simple enough – a massage with release. I told him I’d never done this before. He said don’t worry, he was going to make me comfortable. I liked him. He was attractive, though I wasn’t all that attracted to him. I trusted him well enough to stay.

He left me to get undressed, which I did, and I laid down on the table. I think he asked if I liked the music but I don’t remember. He began with a massage. It was good. Not the best I’d ever had, but nice enough. It was platonic to begin with, and gradually became more erotic in quality and where he was touching. About 30 minutes in was when things really got going. He went down on me, which I was not expecting. He retrieved a conveniently located glass dildo, which I was also not expecting. I watched us in the mirror. I came several times.

We laid in an embrace on the table in the aftermath of my orgasms. I relished his lack of demand for anything, and for once, not reciprocating felt not only justified, but expected. We talked. I told him about the break-up, my difficult ex, being a single mom and all the subsequent stress. He remarked that I just needed to come, really really hard.

He left the room to let me get redressed. When he returned, he did not ask, but I took out the money and put it on the counter and confirmed with him that it was accurate. I didn’t tip. I probably should have, in retrospect. I was working but in plenty of debt and in the midst of a separation. I also felt, a little culpably, that I ought to be able to get away with it. Years before, when hanging out with J in the hot tub of that little spa in London, I’d asked about his orientation. His response was “Well, straight generally, but bi[sexual] for work.” I realized there isn’t really a market for heterosexual male escorts. The majority of clientele are male. B confirmed this as we chatted after – he had a few female clients, but most were men. Being an attractive and fit woman, I imagined that a session with me with no strings attached could hardly be considered grueling work in the eyes of most men, straight or bi, escort or not.

I left the building elated, relaxed, and triumphantly giddy. I was so relaxed that I forgot to text my friends, until I noticed a second message from one, saying that if she didn’t hear from me in 10 minutes she was calling 911. All’s well that ends well.

It was fun, and I’ve thought frequently about doing it again, but since that time, I only went back once, on the following Valentine’s morning, before rolling into the office with a smug grin. It has it’s pros and cons, like anything. It definitely made me feel a lot better about not having a lover on Valentine’s Day (or “Lupercalia,” as I prefer to call it, in the way they once did before the Church sanitized the amorous filth of the old Pagan holidays). As a single parent, it’s appealing as another solution to time-management in this extreme, daily marathon which leaves little time for dating. Anyway, I’ve never been fond of dating. I much prefer meeting people through work or extracurriculars, when smoldering attraction blossoms out of accidental familiarity. Purchased gratification definitely pales in comparison to THAT, so when I have a crush, my interest in escorts wanes. But I’d say I prefer this simple service to dating, online or otherwise.

The thing that deters me, is the awkward process and questionable safety. I could contact B again, but he ultimately he isn’t quite my type, and besides, what’s the point if one doesn’t go for a little variety? But every time I think of going back online to browse profiles and agonize over whether or not I’m going to be into the person, or like the way they smell, or whether or not it will be good, or safe, I throw up my hands. What I would prefer is a setting a little more like a salon, where one could select from a catalogue of screened men, or better yet, where there’s a few dozen meandering a wet lounge or game room or garden, such that one can see, smell and touch the merchandise before requesting a private room for a massage. It seems appropriate that this would be a place where one could get hair, nails, and facials done, and serves excellent tea.

The main obstacle of course, is the illegality.

Most of us take for granted the protection under the rule of law we enjoy at our jobs. Escorts and their clients don’t get to partake in this protection, and subsequently must operate furtively, while exposing themselves to undesireable risks. It’s pretty absurd, given that the transaction, between consenting adults, does society no harm. One could easily argue that marriage is merely the same transaction but under a contract involving a ring and a house instead of cash. Or that it isn’t much different than one person buying dinner for another preceding intercourse, or the pebble that one penguin offers to it’s would-be mate. After reading the Kama Sutra I felt quite convinced that the only difference between a wife and escort is that one is full-time and the other freelance — which is of course, a personal choice, and subject to change with circumstance.

I find others quick to argue that sex-work is dehumanizing and abusive, and that it encourages human trafficking — how can I possibly compare it to that sacred institution of love? Is it as sacred when it’s Russian mail-order brides or Middle Eastern children sold into marriage to pay off family debts? I know too many women that stay in bad marriages because they simply cannot afford to leave. The titles are different, but the abuse and objectification looks much the same. Like ownership of one human being by another. On the flip-side, and a lighter note, there are many great love stories involving concubines. Both Jesus and Siddhartha shacked up with brilliant whores.

Like seemingly all social problems, it boils down to income disparity. Were the income disparity between men and women the world over not so great, the sexual repression that comes inherently coupled with economic oppression would not be present in marriage or prostitution, and women would not feel compelled by financial necessity to enter into any transaction involving their bodies that is contrary to their health and happiness.

So I’d like to live in a world where I can go get head while getting my nails done, on the condition that sex-work is well-paid, well-respected, and well-regulated, and the plethora of living-wage jobs and social services mean that the choice to sell sex is not a last resort, but truly one choice among many, to which one can always turn on one’s heel and say “no.”

Chakras and Architectural Space

Monday, October 27th, 2014
Jung believed that when a person dreams about their home, it’s a direct metaphor for the psyche.[1]

In our waking lives, the home as a reflection of self hardly requires of a jump. Regardless of whether you prefer the terms of Architectural Psychology or Feng Shui, it’s plain across rhetoric and culture that our structures are as much a canvas for expression as they are determinants of our mood, health, and relationships.

I started thinking about the architectural significance of the chakras while living in a house with a dozen other adults. My partner at the time and I had bought the 4-story, 4-unit home with the idea of architecting something more inclusive, supportive and dynamic than the traditional nuclear family. As we worked to create a sense of community in the evolving patchwork of private spaces, public spaces and roommates, I poured over blueprints of schools, hotels and ashrams — while trying to figure out why it just wasn’t working.

Living with anyone can be difficult. I once heard a comedian say that there are two choices: loneliness, or irritation. Most of us in the western industrial world first experience non-familial cohabitation when we are but adolescent maggots blindly feeling our way through relationships, careers and life, and simply too broke NOT to have roommates. Armed with little in our conflict-resolution toolbox, we hobble our way through differences, or throw up our hands to resignedly despise our roommates. So we work hard, earn more money, and eventually move into a half-decent studio or one-bedroom, to more properly begin our next quest: settling down with a romantic partner, maybe to have children, but especially so as not to die alone. And once we do, whether it’s married or living in sin, we receive a shocking reminder: living with anyone can be difficult.

Now, obviously it’s not all bad, or we wouldn’t bother at all. Coming home to a gaggle of roommates watching a movie, or a lover who’s cooked you a meal, or your little one rushing at you with open arms, can be heaven. And it’s hell to clean their hair out of the shower drain, discover someone has eaten all your organic imported chocolate, or be kept up by your neighbors having loud sex the night before your presentation. Depending on the nature of the relationship, some activities are more easily shared than others, some transgressions tolerated more than others.

According to the Vedas, there are 7 types of relationships corresponding to the chakras. Or perhaps better put, our relationships are ruled by certain chakras, some more than others. If our social realities are also ruled by the daily structures we physically inhabit, what is the relationship between architectural space and the chakras? How can our homes be designed to create a socially harmonious flow of energy exchange that bonds and comforts, without crowding or irritating?


Click to enlarge

The sketch above is a brief summation of the chakras and areas of a typical western home with which I thought they corresponded. I’d be interested to see a cross-cultural chakric breakdown of dwellings, but for now, I can only write from my experience living in the US and Europe.

The progression from the first to last chakra suggests a continuum from highly private, intimate and subjective, to shared, public, and objective. The highest chakras connect us to a great number of beings. The lowest connect us with fewer, in our most intimate relationships. Changing diapers or having sex are things we share with a special few. We’re likely to share a meal more casually – though probably not with just anyone. Books and lectures connect us with a great many, across time and geography. Our spiritual pursuits connect us with everything. Relationships ruled by the lowest chakras require a higher level of trust and shared values than those ruled by the higher chakras.

When I talk to people about communal living, one of the first things they blurt out is that they would need their own bathroom, and sometimes, but less often, kitchen. I noticed while living in a house teaming with other adults, how annoying it could be to share these amenities with others that aren’t intimate familiars or who didn’t share the same values (like cleanliness). Anyone with a toddler knows how messy that first chakra can be, and a private toilet for parents and child is more likely to be comfortable for a budding family and everyone else. Sharing a kitchen is something I usually enjoyed, whether it was making coffee in the morning or breaking bread in the evening — provided it was happening with people that followed a similar diet to myself. By the same token, I noticed that I almost never got to know people with whom I did NOT share a bathroom or kitchen, and it was an odd kind of estrangement, despite being a mere staircase away. There was a common area on the top floor, but it instigated only superficial contact when we threw parties. There were occasional conflicts in how it would be used and maintained — people wanted to cordon off studio space for their disparate crafts, and once after performing a major impromptu childproofing sweep, I unwittingly earned the ire of a childless roommate that didn’t like the new furniture arrangement.

My conclusion was and is that in domestic relationships, shared resources and shared values are critical to constructive, harmonious, long-term social bonding. If the group shares a common pursuit, be it parenting, painting or pilates, they are more likely to find parity in their preferences for the arrangement of space and allocation of resources. It’s a surprisingly far cry from the kind of Marxist theories that were partially responsible for my initial pursuit of a community-oriented living situation. According to Engels, labor is the basis of all relationships:

“the development of labour necessarily helped to bring the members of society closer together by increasing cases of mutual support and joint activity, and by making clear the advantage of this joint activity to each individual. In short, men in the making arrived at the point where they had something to say to each other.”[2]

This is not to say that parenting, painting and pilates are not laborious, but these days, the thing we do for a living isn’t necessarily the thing we value or define ourselves by. It can be, but not always. Gone is the tribal work-collective, where we labored together for shelter and sustenance, along with it’s collectivist habits. In its place is the nuclear family and the office, each with their fair share of shortcomings, each in flux.

The following diagrams represent a few layouts driven by consideration of the chakras as the driving design factor. Public and private spaces are organized around individual needs for privacy surrounding lower-chakra activities and inclination towards social connection surrounding higher-chakra activities.


1. Rough beginnings with NY as my context. Space in NY is scarce, and one is often boxed into a rectangle. Inhabitants have the option of one or two-bedroom units, all of which spill out into the central shared areas.


2. Pie in the sky: This circular layout offers some more flexibility in combining and separating spaces. For example, if a couple has a child, they could eventually expand into the next unit fairly easily, or two families could spread across 3 units, with the central unit shared by the kids.


After designing the second one, I realized that it’s not unlike the arrangement of many old European squares, with a central meeting point surrounded by restaurants, and residences tucked away on the upper floors.


Square in Komarno Slovakia.
Image from album.sofeminine.co.uk

Square in Prague.
Image from prempoint.blogspot.com


A friend of mine pointed out that my design is also similar to a kibbutz. [3]



Steve Jobs was occupied with the redesign of the Apple Headquarters up until his death in 2011 and envisioned a circular ring of open workspaces, surrounding a greenspace. The layout of amenities was designed to create happenstance social interaction between colleagues.


Rendering of Apple Campus 2

There are of course, infinite possibilities, and every social group will develop it’s own coda on what should and should not be shared. If there is to be fluidity between the chakras, between the private and public, collective and neo-liberal, the space must be easily combined and partitioned. For this reason I included a lot of pocket doors to allow spaces to be opened and closed frequently and liberally with minimal spatial interference. Soundproofing is critical, which means 6-inch walls between units and soundproof doors. The provision of individual bathroom and the most meager of kitchen facilities allows each unit has to operate autonomously, with an incentive to use the more elaborate shared kitchen and living areas. All of this is to reflect the reality of the modern self: independence and solitude are available and well-supported if desired, but joining forces with others is a more complex and enriching way to navigate daily life.

While the socioemotional benefits are appealing, the economic reasons for a redesign of the family that scraps our current architectural conventions are far more compelling. There is no shortage of skepticism on the subject of communal living (which I suspect is a relic of McCarthyism), despite the fact that the nuclear family is a post-industrial phenomenon, historically too impoverished to exist before the wealth of modernity made it possible. I still consider it impoverished. After nearly going bankrupt when my daughter was born, the need for co-located collaborative family support became glaringly apparent. Two-income families are buckling under the cost of childcare, and having a child in the US increases one’s statistical chances of bankruptcy three-fold.[6] Teaming up for childcare swaps or nannyshares with the immediacy and ease of knocking on someone’s door is just one way families could ease the financial burden of starting a family. While living in the house with a group of adults, I discovered that 10 people can very easily and comfortably share one vacuum-cleaner, one juicer, one iron, one printer, one broadband internet connection, various power tools — I’d estimate roughly a 50-75% reduction in common household expenditures (accounting for the need of a higher-quality appliance or service to handle the increased load). The equal marriage rights movement has opened the question of what a “healthy” family looks like – to which there are many right answers. The rate of marriage continues to decline, as women’s income goes up. I don’t suggest that we should attempt to return to collectivism; We are postmodern, we are neo-liberal, we have personal property. But this doesn’t mean we need to be alienated, isolated and artificially impoverished in our two-bedroom, one-or-two-parent households.

I believe our homes can be run with the efficiency of our profit-oriented organizations, by operating on industrial principles like specialization, professionalization, economies of scale and co-location. Replace co-workers with a group of moms (or dads, to be gender-neutral, but to be fair and give credit where credit is due, it is vastly more moms that I witness exhausted and overwhelmed by the demands of career, housework and childcare). It begins to look something like Adam Smith’s pin factory: While one makes breakfast, another pops out to the store to get more coffee, another watches the kids (who are busy entertaining each other, and subsequently require less attention from their adult caregiver), another cleans up, and the last one takes a shower — blissfully uninterrupted. Imagine a home where there’s always an extra set of hands to hold up one end of a shelf while you drill the other side, and help with moving a piece of furniture is never further than a knock on a door or a call across the courtyard. This is not to suggest that it’s all roses. There will be differences and disagreements, and these will require commitment, the right tools, and daily work to resolve — just like a marriage.


Sources:

1. Man and His Symbols. Carl Jung, 1964. (Ed.) Dell Publishing

2. The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Marx, K., 1895. Progress Publishers, Moscow

3. Kibbutz & Archipelagos. 2010. www.deconcrete.org

4. Why Our Ancestors Built Round Houses – and Why it Still Makes Sense to Build Round Structures Today. Rachel Ross 2012. inhabitat.com

5. Towards Collaborative Community. Paul S. Adler & Charles Heckscher, 2005. www-bcf.usc.edu

6. Interview: Elizabeth Warren – The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke. Books of Our Time. Dean Lawrence R. Velvel, 2004. www.youtube.com

Poly and Pregnancy: A staunch polyamorist makes the case for monogamy (sometimes)

Saturday, August 10th, 2013


Poly is hard. Polamory and pregnancy is exponentially harder. 6 months into the ashy aftermath of our break-up, I can’t help but wonder sometimes, if it wouldn’t have saved a lot of heartache had my partner and I put external affairs on hiatus while focusing on the very new, very intense relationship we had just started with our newborn daughter.

Things were pretty easy before the baby. Sure, we had occasional spats or jealousies, but overall, we felt pretty confident not only that we had the poly thing down, but were more or less a shining example to friends of the sweetness of constructive non-monogamy. Our thoughts on poly had meandered into alternatives to the traditional nuclear family in an effort to provide a more enriched experience for children as well as parents. We had bought a townhouse, a fixer-upper, with the intention of re-architecting it to this end. It was a lot of work, but we reveled in the mess and excitement and absurdity.

The problems started after I became pregnant, despite it being planned and calculated all the way down to which month we wanted the baby to be born. I was working full-time with an hour commute and was quite unprepared for the fatigue of the first trimester. Each day I would come home, eat like it was my last day on earth, and sometimes fall right asleep on the floor or bed, surrounded by leftover containers. But it was a well-paid gig, and I make significantly more than he does/did, so I felt it was important for me to bring in as much money as possible for the time I’d take off once the baby arrived.

“It is rather the incapacity to love which robs mankind of his possibilities. This world is empty to him alone who does not understand how to direct his libido towards objects, and to render them alive and beautiful for himself, for Beauty does not indeed lie in things, but in the feeling we give to them.” [1]
–Carl Jung


If you consider that all our activites require Qi, or Libido, or Svadisthana, or whatever the hell you want to call that thing that keeps your world in orbit, pregnancy takes a lot of it. When a task of enormity usurps a lot of it, your other endeavors often get put on hold until there’s enough to go around.

So making a baby left little time for my art, fitness, extracurricular activities, dating. At the time we decided to conceive, I took a break from other lovers to ensure paternity. After the pregnancy was confirmed and I considered it safe to frolick, I was so exhausted, I had no time or interest.

The sudden incongruence in our dating didn’t really start to bug me until I noticed that I would ask him for help, or to stop leaving messes in spaces I needed to use, and get ignored, or refused before he launched into some defense of why couldn’t or wouldn’t or shouldn’t be bothered. Things finally hit the roof when he repeatedly refused to reach out to someone I liked but didn’t have excuses to hang around once I decided soccer was too dangerous for my growing belly, shortly followed by some miscommunication that resulted in me not knowing he was having someone over for the night. We’d already had one talk about my desire to move out, and he had responded temporarily by fervently cleaning up after himself. But something about having the great disparity in our sex lives thrown right up in my face reified the inequity in our relationship enough for me to tell him it was over. At the time, in the heat of emotion, I don’t think I knew how right I really was.

“Marrying has been found to bring a net increase in domestic work for women, and a net decrease for men. [2]


Whether or not you’re poly, inequity in the division of labor between husbands and wives is a cliche, most especially in families where both spouses work. I suspect this disparity in sweat equity investment will be fueling the already steady demise of heteronormative marriage until the institution is nearly a relic of the past. As I am writing this, I’ve been “poly” in various forms for over 13 years. I didn’t come across the word until around 2005, but since the very beginning — since losing my virginity and since my first boyfriend shortly thereafter, I knew monogamy just didn’t quite feel right for me.

I think something a lot of poly’s do, at least initially, is try to mash down their feelings of jealousy by labeling them as “insecurity” or “conditioning.” With time and attention to one’s personal growth, the deconstruction of irrational jealousy ultimately dissolves it until it doesn’t form at all. If you’ve opportunity to explore and your needs are getting met, the scorecard doesn’t really matter, and if you’ve cultivated a bit of emotional independence, and you make the effort to maintain your friendships outside of your primary relationship, the prospect of not always being romantically involved isn’t all that terrifying either. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t sometimes reasons to feel concern if a third party actually shows hostility to your relationship, or like you’re giving and not getting back. I’d given up a lot of my needs to embark on the shared decision to make a baby, and not only was he not helping me in any of the comparatively small ways I was asking, he was getting his needs met right in front of me, like a glutton shamelessly feasting before a someone who’s starving. Is it the glutton’s fault for not seeing the hungry person, or is the hungry person not being loud and clear enough?

During the first year of our daughters life arguments over money and space and effort swelled on what was already shaky ground. I’d gone into quite a bit of credit card debt in order to keep nursing when he was unable to keep the bills covered beyond the third month, and when I was discovering that none of my usual agencies were willing to give me offsite work. I can’t help but assign some blame to the US’s lack of social protections and shortage of organizations valuing the contribution of working parents and the next generation enough to accommodate their needs. A culture that only values the bottom-line creates an insecurity that seeps into our sexual relationships in very touchy and unpleasant ways. I think a culture of social support, whether it’s public or private sector, allows men and women to relax a little more over an act that cn and does have very real economic consequences.

We tried therapy and things seemed to get better for a while, but as anyone with kids knows, once the baby is born, things get harder, not easier. Our patterns continued, fueled by mounting resentment and lack of understanding. When our daughter was just over a year and a half and I had finally paid off the debt, with very little help from him (and even that most grudgingly after numerous fights), I decided to move out.

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” [3]
–Helen Keller


From etymonline.com
fidelity (n.) early 15c., from Middle French fidélité (15c.), from Latin fidelitatem (nominative fidelitas) “faithfulness, adherence,” from fidelis “faithful, true,” from fides “faith” mid-13c., “duty of fulfilling one’s trust,” from Old French feid, foi “faith, belief, trust, confidence, pledge,” from Latin fides “trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, belief,” from root of fidere “to trust,” from PIE root *bheidh- (cf. Greek pistis; see bid). For sense evolution, see belief. Theological sense is from late 14c.; religions called faiths since c.1300.


My uncharacteristic discomfort with his personal life prompted me to wonder if there isn’t some subliminal function to monogamy that gets eclipsed by Evolutionary Psychology’s pragmatic explanations involving genetic succession and resources. Is it really as simple as ensuring one’s DNA gets passed on and one’s offspring are provided for? Or is there a promise of one’s libidinal resources in building a home & family together wrapped up in the package? When you submit to each other as sole sexual partners, a certain regulation occurs. If your partner is too tired or busy for sex, or cross with you, you won’t be getting any either and your incentive is to mitigate whatever is blocking their affections. Here lies a misgiving I sometimes have with non-monogamy – I believe some pursue it out of a fear of sacrifice or fear of being alone, rather than sovereign respect for another’s freedom to connect with others. If one lines up enough people, one will never run out of nookie and validation to save one from working through differences.

This is not to say I have been converted to monogamy – perish the thought. I don’t see myself ever committing to monogamy long-term. But this experience got me thinking about monogamy in a more nuanced way. In the same way that I learned to see value in temporary celibacy based on my artistic practice and my yoga practice, I can see value in temporary or periodic monogamy. These are 2 of the vast multitude of mechanisms we employ to temper the sexual impulse in an effort to achieve other ends.

Would a temporary hold on external lovers have saved our relationship? It might have saved some strife while transitioning to being a family, but ultimately, I doubt it — my decision had more to do with him not pulling his weight, and my needs for art, eroticism, travel, and health going unmet than it did with the notches on our bedposts. It also makes me wonder if perpetuating the illusion of monogamy evolved as a symbolic gesture of dedication, which many monogamists seem to turn a blind eye to when the relationship is healthy and fulfilling in other ways.

Is libidinal dedication a survival tactic that natural selection mandated we follow [5], if only from conception to weening of a new life? In the US, we don’t really have anything in the way of economic structures outside of the institution of marriage to support child-bearing and childrearing, especially now that families are often geographically spread out. Many mothers, if dependent on their husbands for financial support, are just one divorce away from bankruptcy. This makes it much harder to not feel a twinge of concern if he’s off courting another. If we were to alter the socioeconomic structures that currently support the task of childbearing and child-rearing such that they remained separate from our romantic relationships, would this necessarily create a context more accommodating to healthy non-monogamy?


Sources
1. Jung, Carl G. 1916. Psychology of the Unconscious. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press

2. Craig, Lyn and Sawrikar, Pooja. 2007. Housework and divorce: the division of domestic labour and relationship breakdown in Australia. Melbourne, Australia: HILDA Survey

3. Keller, Helen. 1937. Helen Keller’s Journal. New York. NY: Doubleday, Doran, Incorporated

4. Hartford, Tim. 2008. Divorce is Good for Women. Washington DC: Slate Magazine

5. Rogers, Deborah S. and Ehrlich, Paul R. 2007. Natural selection and cultural rates of change. Standford, CA: PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), Stanford University’s HighWire Press®