Today I was having a conversation with Holly about what people expect to get out of the lifestyle, and how different those expectations can often be. We came to the conclusion that the expectations people have are just as varied as their reasons for getting into the lifestyle in the first place. But one of the most varied expectations I've seen is the variety of interpretations of those looking for “friends first” in the lifestyle. (As opposed to the NSA [No Strings Attached] folk.) Marilyn and I fall into the so called friends first category, as do most of the lifestyle people we associate with. Though lately I've been thinking that this idea of friends first is really a misnomer. We've gotten to know people a bit, either by going on a date with them, talking to them online, or meeting them through one of our other friends. But have we really become FRIENDS at that point, before we hop into bed?
I suppose it's really no different than fucking on the first date (you know, in the vanilla world, not one of our dates) because we have, though don't always, fuck after the first date. We do know within one date usually whether or not we're interested in taking things further with a couple, so that if we don't fuck on the first date, I'd say 9 times out of 10 we do if there's a second. But I will tell you that I feel like I learn a lot more about a couple on our playdates than on our others. Sure you learn the tertiary things, likes, interests, things you're willing to share, but while playing with a couple, you REALLY can see what makes them go.
So maybe we're not so much friends first. But we are friends interested. Which is why the Beatles Quote up as a title. We are looking for friends and lovers, or friends with benefits, or whatever you want to call it. Those who we don't think we would enjoy just hanging out with, watching a movie with, drinking wine with, having dinner with, etc, well they don't stay in our lives long; whereas those people who do stay in our lives, for multiple playdates, over weeks, months, and now years, those are ones that are quite important to us, and those are the ones that we want to keep in our lives for the long haul.
Then the strange lifestyle term comes up: relationship. Isn't that just what poly* folk have? I don't believe it is. To me, these relationships are very similar to those we have with vanilla friends. We love our vanilla friends, we'd drop everything to help our vanilla friends, we'd support them through tough times, we'd rejoice with them through good. And we love our lifestyle friends.
So maybe it's the “I love them but I'm not ‘In Love' with them” part that throws people for a loop. Since what we do involves sex, and sex often leads to loving feelings (and cheating, divorces, etc in both the vanilla and swinging worlds) we're so hesitant to use the word love because of the included expectations and the understood implications of it. “Oh god, she loves me, does that mean she wants to leave her husband now?” “Oh god, he loves me, does that mean he's going to want to see me on the side?” And maybe that happens to some. But that's certainly no more of a risk than in a vanilla relationship of one person meeting another and falling in love.
It's a decision we make, not to repress loving feelings, but to channel them in appropriate directions. Love isn't this ridiculous force that cannot be controlled. It just needs to be molded a bit.
Or maybe we should go back to jr high. I like them, but I don't like them like them.
*Polyamorists – people who believe you can have many loves at once, and will often date and marry multiple partners.