Adult Attachment and Survivors (or – how to have a secure relationship when your childhood sucked) – Part 1

This is a huge topic. Here’s the short version for childhood sexual abuse survivors.

When you had parents who severely abused or neglected you, it messes up your ability to be close to a romantic partner. Oh yay, another thing being a survivor has messed up, you say? Well, yes, but the good news is, it’s fixable. Also, and this is a big thing, knowing about attachment theory is very useful for settling down and reparenting our own inner abused children. Happy inner children (or dissociative parts) mean a more settled, healed and calm life.

Attachment theory basics for survivors

lara and saskia
Here are the basics. All humans need someone to be their go-to person. Ideally, a baby has a parent who is their go-to person, the one pays attention to the signs baby needs something and makes it happen. This ‘attachment figure’ who is usually a close caregiver, is supposed to be reliably there, so that the baby and then child, feels safe. Ideally baby / child can then do more independent things like crawl across the room, try something new, ride a bicycle or go to school, knowing that their attachment person has their back if they need it.

So if you’re reading this blog, this probably wasn’t the case for you.  I’m sorry. It’s worth grieving about this.

What kind of Attachment Issue Do I (or my parts) have?

All of us childhood abuse survivors have attachment issues. It’s a sure thing. If the abuser was part of the family, it’s doubly sure. Knowing how that affected your attachment style can help you figure out how to heal it. Having a more secure attachment style makes it easier to have happy relationships, and can help calm down your nervous system, making a lot of things work better.

Basically the type of attachment disorder you have, depends on how much your parental figures were there for you emotionally and physically. Also, people often have qualities from more than one type at different times of their life, and in different relationships.

Anxious

If you had at least one person who was solidly there for you some of the time, but then was completely awol at others, you’re probably anxiously attached. This means that if you find someone you get connected to, you are always waiting for something to mess it up, and super sensitive to signs the person might be pulling away. You might even throw a bit of a tantrum if they seem to be doing that, or chase after them more than most people are comfortable with.

Avoidant

This is the attachment style you probably have if your parents were so neglectful that you couldn’t rely on them at all. A kid in this situation learns to be hyper-independent and to suppress any feelings of needing help or support. In studies with babies, they learned that even if the baby appears to be fine with being left by an attachment figure, sensors on their body detect just as much distress as an anxious baby. Its not that they aren’t freaked out mommy has left the room, they’ve just learned not to show it.

As adults we often suppress the recognition that things were really that bad. This kind of survivor will not remember much or anything about their childhood, and will say that it was basically all right. We pride themselves on not needing anyone, being low maintenance, and don’t want their partners to get ‘too clingy’. They might be more concerned with looking okay, and good to others in all ways than usual.

Disorganized

This type of attachment is caused when the caregiver scares, moves away from or ridicules the child when the child needs comforting.  The caregiver may seem ‘helpless’ in the face of the child needing help, and only eventually comfort the child if the child is persistent. Over time the child may turn into the one that takes care of the adult. They may become an adult that either takes care of others at the expense of their own needs or who is impatient and hostile about both their own needs and those of others.  Since most adults in relationships want a partner who is sensitive to their needs, and who is able to ask directly for what they themselves need, this makes it hard to connect and stay connected.

So what do I do about my attachment style as an adult survivor?

I’m going to devote a whole post or posts to this because it’s also a huge topic. But in brief form, you heal attachment problems by having close relationships with people who are able to have close relationships.

Oh, right, how the heck am I supposed to do that?

While most attachment books, being for a non-survivor audience, will say you have to find a healthy person to be a partner with. However, this can be too high a hurdle for a survivor. Some good ways to start healing attachment is to have supportive relationships with a therapist,  a higher power / god / goddess, and maybe eventually a best friend. You can also heal this by having a good and supportive relationship with other parts of yourself, and strengthening your inner loving parent. This last I have found particularly powerful.

Once some of the gunk is cleared from doing the above, a healthy romantic or life partnership will become more possible.

The type of close relationship you have is important, though. it needs to be reliable and supportive. The other party has to be reliable, safe and consistent, and if it’s a partnership, you have to be reliable, safe and consistent too.

I know that those kinds of relationships with other people are hard to come by for survivors. This is why you can get started on the ones that are most accessible to you – relationship with a higher power, or your own inner parent are ones you can put energy into without having to find another person. Trusting relationship with a therapist, is also a good place to start.

Now that I’m into this topic, I realize there is way more to cover. I haven’t even talked about how I’ve cleaned up my attachment style (I’m doing pretty well there). More on this in future posts.

 

A lot has happened…

The last time I posted here was December 2015. Wow. That’s a long time ago. A lot has happened.

The woman I was dating when I last wrote was a terrible human being. I was completely wrong about her. I was in the initial honeymoon of dating a very self-centred person. As I was writing, she was cheating on me. You might ask how someone can cheat when you are ethically non-monogamous in the first place, but it’s actually quite straightforward. Breaking your word and pursuing someone behind your partners back, and then concealing it, is pretty much always cheating. Continue reading A lot has happened…

Love is not a prize

I am whole
I am holy
I was born from pain, raised in pain but I overcame

I deserve all the love this world can offer
I deserve a beautiful life
And I will live it

I told her of my fears
showed her all the things I was afraid
would scare her off
believing they would not
for I am whole
and now I am afraid
they will

Somewhere inside is the little girl
who knows, feels believes that
her story makes her damaged goods
Dirty and unwanted

Why do I tell people this truth
knowing it is only where I have come from
what I have fought to restore my sacred self
I show them the dragon, slain
with pride
but then fear they only smell the rotten meat long hauled away

I am still trying to win love with brave deeds
when love is not a prize
I am still trying to prove myself worthy
when I always was.

Help for Partners of Childhood Sexual Assault Survivors

I had a comment just now asking for resources for partners. I am a survivor and have been involved with women who are survivors. I think that most of this will be applicable to partners of survivors of all genders.

Partners will find these posts particularly useful:

Coming out as a survivor part 3 – Intimate Relationships with Bystanders and Civilians

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Source: US Army http://flic.kr/p/5FHaHE

The story I wrote about in my last post, where I’d come out to a potential lover as having an injured vagina and she’d reacted in an odd way, has been puzzling me. What was it about that which was so triggering?

I figured it out when I was trying to write her an email to explain why I couldn’t be her lover, despite some flirting and making out we’d done. Continue reading Coming out as a survivor part 3 – Intimate Relationships with Bystanders and Civilians

Coming Out as a Survivor Part 2 – Friends and Lovers

http://flic.kr/p/d9a74Y
Source: http://flic.kr/p/d9a74Y

In my previous post on this topic, I covered coming out to yourself, your therapist and your support or therapy community. The final two really difficult steps are coming out to friends and lovers (level one and two) and coming out to or confronting your family. The family piece might come before the friend piece, so these are not necessarily the order in which they are done, but perhaps are the order of complexity and potential for pain.

Continue reading Coming Out as a Survivor Part 2 – Friends and Lovers

New Year Resolution

Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr
Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr

So last Saturday I saw my ex girlfriend (Kitten) and her new girlfriend at the bar. It was no big deal. For those who don’t know the back story, she was my partner for 5 months and we broke up mid September. She reminded me a lot of my father / abuser, thankfully not in the sociopath rapist ways. She’s the first person I’ve dated who had so many profound superficial and deep similarities with him that I saw and recognized it as a gift, since it could not possibly be coincidence.

Okay, I’m going to get all Wiccan and spiritual on you here. If that’s not your thing, I won’t be offended. Continue reading New Year Resolution

New Year – Releasing, Banishing and Blessing


Yesterday I did a ritual of blessing and letting go with one of my friends. We both practice the same religion but hadn’t done any ceremony together before. It was her idea to burn things we wanted to let go of before we go into the new year, and to eat a dinner of black eyed peas and greens ( a southern US prosperity blessing practice).

I burnt three things. The first was a shield I’d made of paper, early into my healing journey. At the time, I was living alone and having night fears and flashbacks almost nightly. At the time I called them monsters. Come evening time, it was like I was haunted by anxiety and the sense that something was stalking me over my shoulder. I would be afraid to look around or to focus much attention on it, for fear the ‘monster’ would come closer.  Because most of my abuse happened at night in my bedroom, going to bed was particularly hard for me, and, although I didn’t know it, I was having memory fragments of the fear I experienced as a child and teen, waiting to see if my abuser would come down the hall to my bedroom and enter to abuse me or if he would pass my room by and go to bed. Since before he would abuse me he would usually use the bathroom across the hall from my room, I had come to associate bathrooms with bad things happening as well. However, I hadn’t had enough time and support to put all this together yet at that point, so all I knew was the fear.

I had created the shield with all of the sacred elements pictured on it, and posted it on my door as a warding to keep the monsters out. That, combined with some other ritual I did at the time, like writing down my fears in bed before sleeping, keeping a jar by my bed in case I was too scared to get up and go into the bathroom at night, and bringing a candle with me to bed so I didn’t have to walk across a dark bedroom, helped keep the monsters manageable until I could process more of the memory fragments. When I moved, that shield came down and didn’t go back up again in my new place, but I’ve kept if for the 20 some years since.

I burned it yesterday because there are no longer monsters waiting for me outside my bedroom door, and if fear fragments from my past emerge, I can name them and deal with them directly. I thanked the shield for protecting me and let that energy go.

The second thing I  burned was a journal from 2003. At that time, I was living with a roommate who bullied me. She had been asked to leave the house, but in the two weeks before she would actually leave, I stayed with a friend because I no longer felt safe at home. This woman, I’ve realized recently, was very similar to both my father and my recent other partner, so it felt fitting to burn my account of freeing myself of her at the same time I am freeing my self of my ex. I do not have to be connected with people who enjoy hurting others.

Also in the journal at the time my father/abuser was in the hospital after a serious car accident, and while there he had been diagnosed with cancer, which they were treating. My family rallied around to nurse him back to help, which felt like such a betrayal, and lessened my ability to deal with the abusive roommate. I now have no contact with my family and have many more people in my life who know my story.

Flipping through the pages, I came across a description I wrote after waking at 5 am to cry over the fact that my girlfriend (now wife), who I had been with three years at this point, was losing her sex driving in menopause, something she thought was only temporary and I should be patient with. Ten years later, we’ve resolved this issue, although in a completely unexpected way, by me having additional partners, something that has completely transformed and blessed our relationship.

I wrote at the time about feeling politically alienated from the queer community, because as a survivor of misogynist violence, my needs are different, and the most  important (only) gender issue for me is expanding power and equality for women for the purpose of protecting ourselves and children from misogynous sociopaths like my father.  When people wish to do away with the concept of ‘woman’ completely, it feels like they are trying not to create equality, but to make women and our struggles invisible.  This issue had come up for me that day in a queer poly group I have been dipping my toe into, that I was concerned would have a rigidly lockstep political stance on these issues.  Instead of being silenced, I spoke out, and got reassurance that my perspective would not be shut down from one of the moderators. Afterward, I re-read yesterday on my blog  a post where I had a wonderful comment exchange with Michelliana ( a woman of trans experience) about the conflict of trans needs and survivor needs. I realized how healing this simple, thoughtful, vulnerable exchange had been for me. All of these things have been ongoing issues in my life, and in the past ten years, all have transformed. It’s good to let that energy burn off and be released.

The last thing I have some mixed feelings about. I burned a bunch of nitrile gloves. As a Pagan, doing something so polluting was a dumb idea in sacred space (or anywhere) and I thought afterward that I could have just cut them to bits with scissors and put them in the garbage. The gloves had been purchased as safe sex supplies by an ex-girlfriend, and barely used. I had requested that she wear gloves, which provide a smoother surface and prevent fingernails and rough hands from irritating my skin, and so make it less likely that I’ll have a flare-up of the inflammatory skin condition I have around my vulva resulting from the assaults. She didn’t like the gloves that I preferred for this purpose and had bought her own, in a rough material and size so large it was wrinkly, causing more discomfort than the ungloved hand would have. They represented that selfishness and lack of empathy and caring that I don’t want to see again in a partner. This was the only thing I burned that was a true banishing, a releasing of something that disgusted me to see and which  I was glad to see the back of. The smoke clung to me afterward, and today I find myself with a headache. I would like to find a way to think about that toxic smoke amid my relief to have them truly gone, to have her truly gone from inside me as well. Perhaps it is reminding me that getting rid of something toxic leaves a residue, and it’s best to avoid those things completely in future, and not rely on my strength to withstand and clean up the damage later. When we are very hungry, it is tempting to take the food that is offered, despite the toxins in contains. It is important to ensure I never get that hungry again.

I think today, I will focus on blessing myself, my life and the people I love, on nourishing myself. Going forward, I will pay attention to my hunger, and figure out a strategy for meeting my needs without accepting toxic people into my life or at least removing them immediately.

May your 2014 be blessed. As my friend Kate says, “Good and Healing Thoughts to You.”

Dating your parents (no not literally, thankfully!)

I subscribe to the theory that what we are attracted to in a mate is often a reflection of both the ways we’ve learned to accept love as children and the unfinished business we have with people who were close to us as children.

And of course, by ‘we’ I mean me. Continue reading Dating your parents (no not literally, thankfully!)

Herne’s blessings – vulva healing and sexuality

Surprize! Getting the inflammation in my vulva down to a dull roar did not instantly fix my sex life.

Surprize! Struggling while trying to restore my vulva to the state the Goddess intended for it brings up unexpected daddy issues.

Surprize! The God makes a reappearance.

Surprize!  People can be exceptionally kind sometimes when you let them see you. Continue reading Herne’s blessings – vulva healing and sexuality

What not to say to survivors of childhood sexual assault…

Do you have a friend, relative or lover who survived childhood sexual assault? Here’s 6 of the top 10 things not to say or do.

1) Breaking the kvetching order  – Don’t expect the survivor to provide emotional support to you about your feelings about their trauma. Go to other people with that.  Support her or him, but refrain from offering advice or judgement.

2) Giving advice. If you haven’t survived childhood sexual abuse, really you’ve got nothing useful about this. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Keep your advice, particularly about forgiveness, moving on, or dealing with abusive or complicit relatives and parents to yourself. For more information on why this is so, please read this post on what it’s like to have PTSD and complex PTSD.

A related issue is platitudes. Phrases like “Parents do the best they can with what they know at the time.” “Mothers/fathers always put their children first.” “Family comes first.” for example, are often completely false in families containing abusers and can make your loved one feel like they are an alien from another planet.

The closest experience a non-survivor can get to what a survivor is going through are experiences of deep loss and grief. Think about how you felt when someone close to you died, or the biggest tragedy you have experienced or could imagine experiencing. That’s probably closest to the experience your loved one is having. If you’ve had one or more experiences of trauma  then you might also be able to relate. By trauma, I don’t mean just stressful events. Here’s what I mean by trauma:

direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing anevent that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threatof death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate(Criterion A1). The person’s response to the event must involve intense fear,helplessness, or horror (or in children, the response must involve disorganized or agitated behavior) (Criterion A2). (p. 463 The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR; American PsychiatricAssociation [APA], 2000))

3) Investigating – It’s not your job to determine if your loved one is telling the truth about what happened to her or him. She or he is probably doing a good job doubting his/her own reality right now. Just stay out of grilling her him for details and trying to make sense of it. She/he will sort most of it out eventually, but based on how the memory works in cases of trauma, it’s not as straightforward a process as you might expect.

4) Not wanting to talk about it – Yes, child sexual assault is disturbing, but it’s a fact of your loved one’s reality, and part of her daily existence. She/he should be able to refer to it in conversation without a big ‘disturbance in the force’ or you changing the topic. It’s a big deal, but don’t make a big deal of it either.

5) Trying to fix it. – You can’t. The best you can do is to walk beside your loved one, to listen and to care.

6) Expecting it to be over quickly – grieving childhood sexual assault, particularly recurring assault, takes about 10 years from the time the person is actively healing. Think about people who have tragically lost one of their children to accident, illness or murder. Do you expect them to ever stop grieving? Yes, it may die down, but there will always be times when grief is active.

I am sure there are more of these – anyone got any others to add?

Awesome Sexuality after surviving the worst

This is obviously not me, but is a wedding picture of a poly triad, and expresses so beautifully that feeling of being happy that your love is happy with someone, which we call compersion.  Photocredit: Waffletaxi http://www.flickr.com/photos/waffletaxi/8428484327/
This is obviously not me, but is a wedding picture of a poly triad, and expresses so beautifully that feeling of being happy that your love is happy with someone, which we call compersion. Photocredit: Waffletaxi http://www.flickr.com/photos/waffletaxi/8428484327/

I remember despairing of ever having a decent sex life, of ever actually wanting sex, of finding people who wanted me and would be good to me, with whom I could navigate the minefield that is survivor sex, so I thought I’d brag about how awesome things are so if that’s where you are right now, you’ll know it can get a lot better.

I spent the weekend with my girlfriend. Okay, we’re not officially calling one another that, at least not in front of one another, but the writing is on the wall. Keep in mind, I also have a wife, who is consenting to me having a girlfriend, and both women are fully informed and consulted with about how everything goes down.  I like how Jada Pinkett-Smith refers to her own marriage: “Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship … this means we have a GROWN one.” We’re planning for the three of us to meet and for the two of them to be introduced in the next little while. Wow. This still fills me with gratitude.

My gf is lesbian, which is kind of a relief. Lesbian culture is different from bisexual/pansexual culture, and being with someone with your own terms of reference and community culture makes things a lot easier.

She is also a member of a different queer subculture than I am although I do have friends who are part of that community. I am finding that this isn’t really as big a clash as I’d feared it would be, or maybe it’s just the hormones talking.  Getting to know people as they really are sure breaks down stereotypes. I will probably write at some point about how some of how we are together interacts with my abuse triggers, because it does. I have a firm policy for myself of doing nothing sexually to reinforce the negative neural pathways and associations created by the abuse, including fantasy, but I’m actually pretty adventurous other than that. I am really happy about how much I trust myself to make good choices about what I do and do not do with my body. If this doesn’t work out, that’s fine. I will have no regrets. Self-trust and self-love are the most powerful resources I know. This is another healed thing. Self-trust, and making good choices.

Okay, the first awesome sexual thing is the above. I had an invasive, painful, emotionally difficult procedure done on my vagina on Friday, followed by freaking Mother’s Day weekend, and what am I talking about on Monday?  My awesome love life after spending a cuddly weekend with my new love. Did I tell her about the procedure? Did I have a cry about it? Did the physical limitations get in the way? Yup. We just acknowledged and worked around it, feeling closer with one another and had lots of pleasure and intimacy.  It’s awesome being a grown up.

Oh that’s another word we’re not using with one another, or at least I’m not. I’m pretty judicious about the ‘L’ word. I want to use important words like that honestly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m falling for this woman, let’s call her ‘Kitten’ (she’d find that funny) pretty hard, but I’m not ready to use the L word. I love my wife (let’s call her ‘Root’), and that took years to develop and mature. It seems weird to use the same word for all different kinds of affectionate feeling, but maybe that’s good too. I love my friends and some of my family, and those kinds of love are different in colour and shape from one another. I wonder what the common thread is that makes it love? Loyalty, affection, commitment, making family of someone perhaps.

Speaking of which, I was checking in with my wife last night, as we crawled into bed with one another after spending the weekend apart. I asked if she felt I was still keeping up my end of the marriage, doing all my ‘wifely duties’. She asked what I thought those were and I rattled off a long list of things, from caring about and for her family to helping her with her computer. She seemed impressed with the long list of things I consider part of my ‘job’ as her wife. She shared that she was trying to be good with the poly, because she knows that having a sexual life is important for me and supports that but that if she had a sex drive of her own she wouldn’t be. I asked if she got everything from me that she had always gotten, and she said she got much more now. I forget how she put it but that basically the quality of our intimacy, and connection and relationship was just better. I told her that I am happy, that her and Kitten both make me happy, and that we don’t have to do things any way other than what works for us.  I’m also noticing that with the romance of my new relationship, I’m reminded of the romantic touches that come so easily when romance is in the air,  that I can do for my wife as well.

In short, life is awesome and full of love. “Take that!” I say to the abuse triggers and assorted childhood crap. The best revenge is indeed living well.

Rules of kvetching: applied to CSA survivors

The rules of kvetching. Illustration by Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times
The rules of kvetching. Illustration by Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times

My neck has been particularly seized up since I found out about the appointment with the gynecologist. Coincidence? Not likely. Since the assault that caused the tearing in my vagina also caused a neck injury, the two are definitely linked.

I believe in the saying “trust in God(s) but tie your camel”, which means to consider both the practical and the mystical in life and cover both. So I did.

I went to both the chiropractor and massage therapist. The chiropractor assessed my neck and said my alignment was fine and that the issue was muscular. She referred me to the massage therapist and wrote down what muscles to work on. They both gave me exercises to do.

I also did a very powerful cleansing and healing ritual in my bath, praying for help from my matron and patron gods, in the journey of restoring the damage to my body from the abuse. I metaphorically let the gunk fall from me, and my body be whole.

And I told/tell myself that my emotional processing system is likely to be taking up a portion of my mental and physical space, even when I’m not aware of it, between now and the appointment, and of course afterwards, until I sort out what there is to do. This is completely normal.

I’ve been a lot more open about my injury in the past several months, which gives me a larger pool of people who I don’t have to ‘come out to’ about it when things get more intense in order to have some support. The isolation of having an injury that it freaks people out to discuss just makes things more difficult, so creating some pockets of awareness is part of my support system. However, it does come with risks. There is always the risk of people negatively stereotyping me because of my injuries and experiences and treating me like ‘damaged goods’ in one way or another. I’d prefer people see my considerable strengths instead.

I found this image and explanation online and thought it was an excellent resource when applied when survivors disclose or are going through PTSD related gunk. It’s called ‘how not to say the wrong thing’. The idea is that you draw a circle around the survivor/person with cancer/bereaved person etc… and then a circle around that that contains the the person who is next closest to the trauma (spouse, for example), then a circle around that that has the people next farthest out and so on till you get out to the level of coworkers and acquaintances. The authors called this circle the ‘kvetching order’. Everyone is allowed to both complain or vent but they can only do so to people in a larger circle than them. To people in a smaller circle than their own, they can only offer comfort, not advice, emotional venting or complaint. Comfort in, kvetching out. The person at the centre can kvetch to anyone about the issue. It is apparently called the ‘silk ring theory’.

So let’s see if I can imagine applying this to myself…

I’m in the centre – I had the sexual assault that ripped my vagina and healed badly, plus the strangulation injury that makes my neck vulnerable now. I’m the one with the scary appointments and needing to advocate for myself to try and assess the damage and fix what I can. I am at the top of kvetching order and theoretically can complain to anyone and accept support from everyone. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it? In the circle around me is my wife. I don’t have any other partners, but if I did, she might be here. Around her is my close survivor friends, women and men who have experienced childhood sexual assault too, and get it but also might be triggered, and who I might share the more graphic details with because even though it might freak them out, they won’t judge me or say dumb things. Around that is maybe my Aunt and cousins, who know and are reasonably supportive, around that would be my non-survivor friends who know. Around that are nice people who care about me but don’t know the details. I would say that the perpetrator is always in the largest circle. Everyone can complain to him (survivor, her supporters, society at large), but he can’t complain to anyone.

Hmm… this is a lot different from a cancer diagnosis isn’t it? If I had cancer (Goddess forbid) my wife could put something out on Facebook about it for example, and everyone would know. Casseroles might arrive. People would still behave weirdly, and perhaps even blame me for the cancer if I was say, a smoker, but certainly it could be talked about. As a survivor, even accessing support about something heavy creates the risk of someone breaking the kvetching order and dumping their gunk/misconceptions/discrimination about child abuse survivors who disclose back on me.

The people who say dumb things to survivors are usually breaking the kvetching order now that I think about it. For my aunt to want me to take care of my mother’s feelings about my mother losing her idealized (and fictional) happy family is breaking the kvetching order. My mom has every right to complain to her therapist or friends, but not to me or my wife or my survivor friends. And my aunt has every right to complain about the impact the abuse has had on her family, but not to me or my wife.

Unveiling

Fly me to the Mooooon...
One of the things that is complicated about the polyamory community is our strange inability to talk about our love lives, since everyone we know that is poly is likely to be webbed up in some way with whomever we want to talk about.

For example: I’ve been on three dates recently. All women are really nice, but there are some caveats and I seem to be hesitating with all of them. I don’t want to be caught in not acting, but am inclined to take time to digest things when I’m uncertain.

Anyhow, two of these woman are quite connected in the poly community so I can’t talk about my dates with the two others by name or in detail with my poly women friends (who would get it) because they know these women, and if the haven’t dated them themselves at least might be dating a man who is. Nobody wants to gossip, which is good, but makes it hard to hash things out with your girlfriends. I can’t talk to my wife about it either, for good reasons as well.

One of the women is about 15 years younger than I and seems not to have a lot of time. Another is really nice and smart, has some shared values, and is attractive, but has a live in partner who smokes so their place reeks and makes me cough. He’s also quite a dominant guy, and I was sensing him doing some alpha pecking order stuff with me, which as you can imagine, aint gonna fly. I don’t accept male authority outside of work relationships, where who I defer to is based on knowledge or formal rank, and has a rational purpose. This guy is her primary partner, and I respect that. I’m willing to be polite, friendly and fair, but not deferential.

The third is a woman I like and respect that I’ve known peripherally (mostly through women’s workshops) for several years. Let’s call her Jane. She’s a very interesting and soulful woman, and I would have dated her long ago (or tried to) if I hadn’t been in a monogamous relationship at the time. She’s perhaps interested, but we haven’t formally broached the topic, although we’ve been spending time together. She has some of the qualities that drive me nuts in my wife, introverted, kinesthetic, reluctant to talk about feelings, discomfort with her own nudity. She also seems to have trouble setting boundaries with people who are imposing on her, again like my wife. Do I need two of these? On the other hand, she is a lot better at creating community and art than I am and I could really learn from her there. She is also pagan.

Here’s the important thing. Jane told me recently she’d had a dream about me after I’d told her that I was dedicated to Aphrodite (which I am). In her dream I embodied Aphrodite.

Okay, this is a really, really big deal. Dreams about Goddesses are not random things, and Aphrodite is quite a hands on Matron deity. The last woman I was with (independently of me telling her anything) felt a huge energetic connection with me that felt Goddess driven, and I think it was. It’s like some women are drawn to me as a priestess to learn something about love. My connection with that women (Let’s call her Amy) was really intense, and, it felt to me, Goddess driven. If Jane had an Aphrodite dream about me, it Means Something.

My take on life is that the Goddess(es) and Gods guide me – not by bossing me around, but by providing me resources to learn and do things I said I wanted to learn and do, like a mentor.

I have a fantasy where Jane and I become co-primaries and I spend part of my week with her and part with my wife. This woman has a very rich life in a nearby community, so I’d have to travel a short way to be with her, but it wouldn’t be onerous. I can see us having a lot to learn from one another, but I can also see places where she might drive me nuts.

Looking at the other women I’ve been on dates with, I think all of them could drive me nuts a little. Heck, my wife drives me nuts a little, although less so now that we’re poly.

What I hunger for is someone who can meet me. A woman who isn’t afraid to be naked and to dare, emotionally, physically, spiritually. I’m like Hermoine’s purse in the book the Deathly Hallows, a little clutch that was a warehouse inside. There are so few places to unfold.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Challion series has some spiritual concepts in it that I relate to strongly. I love her description of the relationships between her characters and various matron or patron Gods in it. It’s similar to how I experience my own relationship with Aphrodite and with the God as Stag. In her book she talks about how the Gods can only enter and act directly in the world through people who have developed the ability to open to them, usually through pain and loss. One of the characters describes how perhaps a hundred people had been set on a path toward a particular quest by the gods, and only he arrived. She talks about how the Gods most love the great-souled, but that becoming great-souled is the result of a lifetime of learning, opening and making choices.

Dragonfly in a tree; "Stained Glass Dragonfly"Since I’m relatively anonymous here, I’m going to risk looking arrogant or foolish or full of hubris here. I think I’ve earned a relatively large and open soul in my lifetime. What I most want is to feel it unfolded in ways that seem to be rare and few so far. It has opened through surrender to music, through the Aphrodisian albeit brief intimate connection with women like Amy, opened sometimes through writing, through mystical meditation and rare moments of connection with the Gods, or simply doing the right thing at the right time despite opposition.

Generally, I can’t open like that with someone who hasn’t experienced their own losses and grown from them. But people don’t wear that information on their sleeve, so it sometimes takes time to know. And some get overwhelmed with such large energies, in themselves or someone else, and close themselves up, like Amy did, at the moment things are most powerful and beautiful.

I’ve sworn I won’t obsess, but instead will envision the future and create it. In my future – I am unfolding my soul in places that have space to embrace it. I am finding more and more of those spaces. I am trusting my heart and my intuition, as well as my intelligence and experience. I am unfolding the wings I have kept closed to my side and learning to fly.

~ Tricks For Treats ~

Ordinary Grief

Well, my new relationship is now over. She broke up with me about a week ago, by email, after spending a lovely day together. That was hard. Some people need to be the central person in another person’s life and the polyamory didn’t work for her. It hit her that I have a wife I love, and that didn’t feel safe for her. I get it, particularly in context with what else I know about her. I’m grieving but okay. It’s hard to finally have what you’ve wanted for a long time and then lose it. But at least my relationship with my wife is still solid, perhaps even stronger than it was.

This is ordinary grief. Somehow being so familiar with complicated and long term grief, the grief of tragically losing my family, sets me in good stead here. I know the road map. I know that my emotional and cognitive ‘bandwidth’ is going to be reduced for awhile, that I’ll cry easily, that I’ll be tired and overeat a little. This will actually pass and taking good care of myself will help. B vitamins help. Eating well helps. Being around people who love me helps.

I’m a bit anxious I’ll never find anyone. I had one of my poly friends look at my personal ad and she told me her feedback was that it was intimidating, that it looked like I had it all together. I do, actually, have it all together, or as much of it as anyone does.

Anyhow, I’m feeling sad, and it will pass.

Missing the Freakin Point! Same-Sex Boundaries and Sexual Abuse Survivors

Apparently, at a recent Pantheacon, there was a scuffle between trans activists and women who want to have a women’s skyclad (nude) ritual without penises and testicles. Continue reading Missing the Freakin Point! Same-Sex Boundaries and Sexual Abuse Survivors

Ethical Polyamory

Okay, I know this is a blog about later recovery from sexual abuse, and specifically waiting for my abuser to die so I can dance on his grave,  so what am I doing talking about polyamory?

Well, part of being a child sexual assault survivor, particularly once the flashbacks have died down a lot, is learning how to have an adult healthy sexuality.  Like many survivors, I have apparently picked a partner who is not going to make any sexual demands on me. Now earlier in my healing, this would have been great, ideal even. All the affection, love and support with none of the having to deal with trying to satisfy a partner (and remotely possibly even myself) without triggering a whack of flashbacks. Perfect.

However, now that I’ve done all the hard work of reclaiming my own sexuality and sexual desire, I’d really like to enjoy the fruits of my labours.  I have a lot to catch up on from all those years.

So why don’t I just divorce my wife and find someone who actually wants to make love with me?

Well, as a result of the abuse and neglect, I’m also what you’d call ‘insecurely attached’. This means it takes a long time to create a close mutual personal bond with someone else and as a result, these are priceless. I’ve been with my wife for over a decade. She loves me, she gets me. She’s almost the only family I have left. I want to keep her. She wants to keep me, and she wants it so much that my basically monogamous wife is willing to indulge what I admit has been a long time fantasy, having an ethical additional relationship with another woman.

My material life too, would be a lot simpler if I didn’t have to divorce my wife. We have a house neither of us could afford alone, and a lot of family connections on her side of the family. I help connect her to her family, and on a lot of levels, we work as a couple.

Is this non-mainstream choice another evidence of me being an abuse survivor? How the heck would I know? I had a really offensive commenter last year who said that I was gay because I’d been abused, and wrote a response on sexual orientation and sexual abuse that said that survivors often have difficulty figuring out what we want sexually, as a result of being forcibly divorced from our bodies and sexual autonomy at such a young age.

This, as they say, is not my first rodeo. I’ve been trying to connect with my true self, first my body sensations, my personal autonomy, my creativity and my right livelihood, my entire life. One of the benefits of having to work to connect with what is authentic and deconstruct the layers of slime put over myself by my abuser and upbringing, is that I get to dig a little deeper than most people, and to value my authentic reality more for having had to work for it.

I can say, honestly, that I’m not a jealous person. If my wife wanted to take a lover who treated her well and made her happy, I’d be happy for her. Of course, if she did take a lover, some of our other problems might be solved, as she’d have her sex drive back. I can also say, honestly, that I’m very Pagan/Wiccan in my sexual ethics, which means I support all loving, pleasurable sexual expression that doesn’t hurt anyone. I have strong reservations about BDSM, but I’m not going to oppose the practice, just stay away from it personally.

The BDSM thing is actually getting in the way quite a bit, strangely enough. It seems that most of the gay and bi polyamorists in my area, or at least the visible ones, are quite into what they call ‘kink’, which usually means BDSM. Sigh! Once again, I’m kind of unusual, apparently. I may be involuntarily celibate for a good long while longer.

I had a conversation once with a woman I was friends with, who considered herself a sadist top in the sack.  She was also, I knew, a child sexual abuse survivor. I asked her how she could participate in sex that recreated some of the activities and dynamics of the abuse. She said that by participating in them again on her own terms, she got to process them and get control of them. I still don’t think that’s a good idea, but that was her take on it. I think that acting out the abuse for pleasure gives some very dodgy messages to one’s inner child condoning the abuse. I also have said before and will say again that at the very least, we have a responsibility to ourselves to be our own abused child’s best allies. However, that’s my personal take on it, your mileage may vary and be equally valid.

So am I duplicating some aspect of the abuse here? Is my partner a stand in for my neglectful mother? Am I a stand in for my ‘philandering’ father? I can certainly see the mother end of thing, and that’s worth pursuing. However, I can’t see me trying, at this late date, to justify or condone any parts of my psychopathic father’s behavour to myself, seeing how I’m pretty sure I’ve worked out all residual needs to please daddy or pretend to myself that he actually loved me. I know from experience what bargaining to avoid accepting truth smells like.

Speaking of which, I’m more concerned that I’m bargaining with the inevitable end of my marriage by saying that if I just find a complementary second partner, I can keep what I have with my wife, by expanding it. A lot of people cheat on their partners in this situation, and that ends the marriage, or doesn’t. Some men have both a wife and a mistress for long periods. Obviously other people experience this kind of dilemma, but I am not willing to sacrifice my integrity or sneak around. I’m not going to cheat, and if my wife decides that me having another partner is intolerable to her, then we’ll have to break up.

And what about breaking up? Could we be friends and share the house if we got divorced? I think this time is a trial run for that too. It could go either way, really.

I’m having a hard time figuring out whether to tell anyone about our reasons for opening the relationship, seeing how my wife is clearly not at heart a polyamorist. It makes me look bad, like I’m the big slut who needs other lovers, even though I’m doing it really as a result of her inability to have sex with me. If I can’t provide that second bit of information, I’m going to look like I’m if not cheating on her, at least taking advantage of her.

To that I guess I have to thicken my skin. Guard your honour and let your reputation take care of itself.

Am I deliberately hurting her? I know we have discussed this and she’s in favour of our current plan, but we both know and have discussed that she may feel differently when it’s more than theoretical. In her heart of hearts, I’m sure she sometimes wishes I’d just give up and go back to how things were.

It was her decision to live and at times sleep separately in our house, even knowing that it might be a deal breaker for me, and to be clear that she has no sex drive. She thought that maybe having her own space would help her get it back, but so far that’s not happening.

It was my decision to stop waiting for her sex drive to come back, even though it might be a deal breaker for her.

I think both choices are the right ones and ultimately lead us to our correct path.  If it turns out to be a slower, gentler breakup instead of a new life together, then so be it. As long as we continue to behave honourably to one another, I’ll be able to accept whatever happens.

Bountiful Abuse – why something stronger was needed to stop a religious child abuse ring

In Creston BC, which is in the western section of Canada, the country where I live, there is an organized paedophile ring masquerading as a religion. The fundamentalist church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) bills itself as an orthodox stream of Mormonism (The mainstream Mormon church doesn’t agree). Continue reading Bountiful Abuse – why something stronger was needed to stop a religious child abuse ring