AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the tag “sex”

The Scariness of Multiple Choice or Tools of the Polymath

Over the weekend, I took a class that should help me for the GRE, the American Graduate Record Exam. I’d like to do my PhD in the US, so I’ll need to take that exam in the next few months. The GRE has 2 verbal sections and 2 quantitative reasoning, i.e. math, sections. Now, dear readers, math has sometimes been the bane of my existence. When I was 15, I was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability, which among other things, affects visual-spatial reasoning. For something like geometry, my brain can’t cope. I get frustrated and I can end up crying. I was thinking about whether this might have any parallels with non-monogamy. During the class, I remembered that I can understand math sometimes when I see it in front of me, but I feel like I don’t have the tools to do it myself. In terms of relationships, we don’t always learn how to conduct them. The tools are available to us, but we may not know how to use them. For example, communication. Most people aren’t necessarily taught how to communicate well. Women are often socialized to be passive/aggressive and men might be socialized to be overly assertive. I think that communication should be a collaborative exercise where parties work together to achieve their goals, instead of people jostling for power. One thing we often face with communication is the fact that what people say is often more of a reflection on them than the people they’re talking to; we may end up taking some things personally when we really don’t need to.

In addition to communication, we aren’t really taught how to have sex. In normal society, sex isn’t really discussed. Teens don’t really want to get any sort of sex advice from their parents and sex education is often lacking. Once we have sex for the first time, we don’t really know what we’re doing. What would society look like if everyone learned important tools for having sex when they were younger? Instead, we now face ridicule for things like updating the sex ed curriculum in my home province of Ontario. Women are slut shamed. Men get to have sex with as many people as they like with very little reprimand. Few young people realize that they have options such as poly, though I think that’s changing with things like the Internet and other forms of media.

If we embark upon polyamory, we might have lots of choices. We can be with more than 1 person and we may decide we want to be with 1 person for every day of the week. The options can be dizzying and perhaps even frightening. As someone wise once told me, the more relationships you have, the more can end. I’d rather start things that have the potential to last for awhile and if we stretch ourselves too thin, our partners may feel unappreciated and we might be exhausted. The process of getting to know someone can be awesome, but also time consuming and once a relationship is established, it’s good to have the tools to make sure it has potential.

Thank you for reading! I’m happy to report I have a second date tomorrow with someone from OkCupid. We’ll see how that goes. Feel free to email with any relationship queries. My email address is miriam@askmiriam.ca

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AskMiriam about Gender Differences in Morning Sex

Question: Something came up the past few days and it has me thinking. I’ve always been a huge fan of morning sex; it leaves me feeling like I’ve gotten in my gym visit and my meditation. My energy levels are up all day. Some of my partners have complained of basically the opposite, they’re exhausted and sluggish if we have morning sex. Am I unique in this or is it a gender thing?

Answer: I think this question calls for feedback from many people of all genders, not just me, but I’ll give it a try. I will say for myself that I very much enjoy morning sex. I used to have a partner who would often visit me in the morning because we both had flexible work schedules. I felt pretty energetic for the rest of the day after that, but it was also exceptionally good sex. I also had a fairly physical life at the time that kept me energetic; I rode my bicycle everywhere, exercised, and I had some physical work. I am also a morning person, so I enjoy doing things in the morning and I do my most productive work in the morning normally.

I will say that I have had times where sex leaves me sluggish afterward. It’s possible that your female partners experience the same thing. I often feel something resembling a high right after sex and an hour or so later, I feel down. I’ve heard that potassium can help that, which I’ve been meaning to try.  Sex is always an individual thing and it’s possible that your partners are night owls and feel more energetic at night. I will also say that I am less likely to feel down after sex if I have an orgasm at the very end. I would talk to your partners about what makes them more energetic after sex. If they feel that there’s something that could be done to that end, they would be more likely to have morning sex.

Thanks for the question! As always, you can email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca if you have relationship or sex questions.

The Best Kept Secret of Polyamory

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about, what I think, is the best kept secret of polyamory. Say you’ve been with someone for awhile and things have become monotonous in the relationship. This is inevitable, after the NRE (new relationship energy) fades away. It’s been said that NRE, the feelings that come when you’re excited about someone at the beginning of a relationship, can last for, at most, a few years. If you’ve been in a 10 year marriage, for the sake of argument, you may well decide to open up the relationship because you want the relationship to feel fresher or more interesting. Well, here’s the secret: Yes, you may be excited about dating and/or having sex with new people, but that doesn’t change the fact that your existing relationship still may feel monotonous. It doesn’t change the fact that you still may have problems in the relationship that need sorting out. Every relationship requires a certain amount of work to be put in and that will not change either. Also, I think one of the biggest issues with polyamory for people in very long term relationships is that you can be prone to seeking out too much variety. You may be with someone for a period and decide that you are bored, once the NRE wears off. Even if you have a great second relationship, you may end it so that you can continue to have variety.  I think this is fine with mutual consent, but there may not be mutual consent when one party ends the relationship for no reason. Here’s the truth: In the end, NRE, that amazing feeling, does go away. We are hopefully left with a feeling of stability, something to last us much longer than NRE ever would. As proud polyamorists, we need to take care of the people we love.

I have been feeling lately like things are starting to be a bit monotonous with Ben and we haven’t even been together for a year and a half. The truth is, the longer we’ve been together, the more attracted I am to him, but that doesn’t mean that the sex doesn’t become monotonous. We talked about that on Monday and agreed we need to spice things up a bit. Ben wants things to be more spontaneous, but the circumstances that would allow for that don’t really exist here in China. Our apartment isn’t really the greatest because it’s completely open concept, so it’s difficult to surprise each other. There is always the roof of a building or at a friend’s house, but those all seem a bit risky. Thus, despite the fact that Ben and I are both now involved with other people, we still need to work on our relationship to make sure it keeps strengthening. We have occasional challenges on that front, but on the whole, we are committed to each other and we want to make sure that our relationship lasts the ages. I dream of having a 50th wedding anniversary because I think longevity is one of the biggest challenges in a relationship, but I think it can be done.

If you have any relationship questions, send me an email at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thank you as always for reading!

disAPPOINTMENT

Last weekend, I had a pretty annoying experience. For about a month, I had been in contact with an Italian guy who was going to spend 2 weeks in Beijing, which is only a few hours away by train from where I live. He told me he was going to arrive on January 3 and leave on January 17. He’s been in non-monogamous relationships before and he looked like an interesting guy, so I was definitely up for meeting him. The reason why he was coming to Beijing was to work on making the Hilton Hotel more environmentally friendly, which I really respected. I told him that I wouldn’t be able to come to Beijing because he’d be here during a very busy period where I had a lot of marking to do. He said he was happy to come to Zhengzhou, the city I live in. I told him that this past weekend would work out fine.

Fast forward to him arriving in China. We added each other on skype and I wanted to talk to him before he’d come to Zhengzhou. One night, I told him I could talk to him at a certain time and he didn’t come on. The next evening, I told him I was free and that I could be online, but he still didn’t come online. 2 days later, it was already Wednesday and I assumed he would be coming on Saturday. I asked him if he was still planning to come and he said yes. I informed him that I was only really free on Saturday night because I had to do marking on Saturday afternoon and we had a guest coming over on Sunday afternoon. I didn’t hear from him again until Saturday… at about 8pm, telling me that he’d be in Zhengzhou in 2 hours, despite the fact that I had sent him messages at 10am and 1pm telling him that I wanted to talk to him before he left for Zhengzhou. On Friday, Ben wasn’t feeling great, so I had to cover for one of his classes. At that point, I assumed that the Italian guy wasn’t coming. I have to say, I was quite horny at that time and was excited to have sex with someone else; Ben was excited for me too. I suppose I should have known that the Italian guy would stay at the Hilton Hotel, which isn’t that close to our place. Given his work, he probably got a discount. He didn’t arrive at the hotel until 10:30pm and that hotel is 20 kilometres away from our house; not a trivial distance to travel, especially given that we had company coming over the next day. In the end, I did not meet the Italian guy.

I have heard many people say that scheduling is one of the most difficult parts of being polyamorous. When you have several relationships, you need to make time for everyone. Plus, we have other things going on in our lives like work, alone time, and fun time. Given that the Italian guy was coming a fairly far distance to see me, I would think he would want to confirm beforehand that I would be able to see him at a certain hour. To me, this signifies a lack of respect for a person’s life. For me, but perhaps not for him, I actually wanted to get to know him a little bit. I was hoping we’d have dinner and have a real conversation. As a fellow blogger reminds us, it’s not (just) about the sex…

What Makes a Relationship Work?

Lately, Ben and I have gotten on each other’s nerves. Many of you know that this trip to Korea has been a bit hellish and it seems like things have finally come to a head. Over the weekend, Ben and I were walking around Seoul and he felt the need to take out some of his aggression on a flight of stairs by stomping very hard down them. This caught me off guard and I asked him what was wrong. He said, “you know how you’ve been remarking that I’ve handled everything here very well? In fact, it has taken a toll on me.” I wasn’t sure what to say, but I felt upset. I want to know everything Ben is feeling and he hadn’t been telling me everything. Of course, that’s partly because he wasn’t fully aware of it himself. We all know the common saying, ignorance is bliss. However, in the context of a relationship, this isn’t really true, especially for a person like me. I want to be in the know and as my mother says, one of my best qualities is the fact that I can’t ignore things.

All of this led to Ben and I having a conversation about our relationship given everything that’s happened. We feel better that things have calmed down slightly and Ben apologized for taking some of his aggression out on me. We also talked a bit about what makes a relationship work and I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject here. First, there is attraction. We meet someone and we think, I want to be with this person. For myself, I need to be with someone who’s smart. We need to be able to have stimulating conversation otherwise I won’t be interested at all. I’m usually not so concerned about what they look like because I’m attracted to different body types; they just need to have good character and a good heart. I will say I have a penchant for taller people with glasses and blue/green eyes, but I have dated others that look different from that. Second, communication. We need to keep each other in the loop about what we’re feeling and what we’re doing. This is especially important in the context of polyamory because we may have other partners and I like knowing what’s going on with the other relationships. Ben and I are both pretty direct communicators, so that part of our relationship works quite well. We usually say what we mean and mean what we say.

Third, I think sex helps make a relationship work. I like to have sex fairly frequently and it should be fun for both people. Ben and I have had some problems in that department lately because we haven’t had our own space. We’ve been staying in hostels and with others and some people have had objections to us having sex, even when we were very surreptitious about it. One girl at the hostel we were staying at heard us having sex and cried for hours. She never approached us to voice her concerns, so we’re not really sure why she was crying. Of course, we are in a pretty conservative country and I realize people here aren’t used to hearing people have sex, but I don’t want to change my practices, even in these surroundings.

Fourth, alone time is very important. I love being with Ben, but this trip has been slightly suffocating because we are together almost all the time. Over the past little while, we have made efforts to have some alone time. I visited one of the baths in Seoul and had several hours to myself. I actually missed Ben during those hours, so that’s a good sign. We all know the old cliche, absence makes the heart grow fonder. I think that is often true when we love someone.

Fifth, dependability. We need our partners to be there for us. I have definitely felt that way here in Korea with Ben. Even when we’re dealing with immigration, a lack of alone time, and the fact that it’s very hard to meet people here, we can be there for each other. We can laugh and cry at all of the crap that’s happened to us. Through a lot of my poly life, I have been a secondary partner. There are plenty of benefits to being a secondary partner, but I have often wanted someone to be there for me and someone who I can be there for. With Ben, I always get that.

Those are just some of my thoughts on what make a relationship work. There are plenty of other things and it can depend on the nature of your relationship. If you have more thoughts, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca I always look forward to your questions!

Love in Translation

Ben and I are in Seoul right now. We decided to come here for various reasons. As many of you know, we had to flee Changwon, the city we were formerly living in. First, we decided to go south because Ben corresponded with someone on OkCupid living in Geoje City, which is just 2.5 hours south of Changwon. We spent the weekend there and got to go to the beach and the forest. Unfortunately, we were spending time with people who drank the entire night and that isn’t really our style, but otherwise, we had a good time.

We thought to come to Seoul because it seemed that we would get jobs in China and Seoul is much closer in that regard. We did indeed get hired by a university in China and are looking forward to that. We were also in contact with people on OkCupid from Seoul, including one who I will call Bryan. He is Korean and speaks English very well. Ben and I had to figure out where in Seoul to stay and Bryan said he could talk to his friend who knows about booking places in Seoul. We met Bryan 2 days ago and had a pleasant time. First we all ate lunch together. He was very helpful when we went to an Internet cafe to print off our Chinese contracts. Then he helped us move all of our luggage to a new hostel and took us out to dinner.

After dinner, Ben decided to go back to the hostel and I took a walk with Bryan. I should mention that during the afternoon, Bryan had told me he was interested in me and was affectionate. I was attracted to him too. We took a walk through Hongik University, close to the hostel Ben and I are staying at. While walking, Bryan asked me if I wanted to join him at a motel and I said yes. He asked me if I had any expectation in terms of sexuality and I asked him to clarify what he meant. He said, I feel like we have a connection, wouldn’t you agree? I said I felt like we had a bit of a connection and he felt turned off by that. I told him we didn’t know each other that well and I didn’t want to rush into anything.

Once we got to the motel, Bryan took a shower and I relaxed on the bed. Once sexy stuff started happening, it was fun and Bryan took his time, which was nice. After some time passed, he said to me, can I say something spooky to you? I said sure. He said, I love you. I asked him why exactly he loved me. He said, getting to have sex with someone like you is awesome. Now, dear readers, we can always separate love and sex. Bryan had given me the impression that he hadn’t had sex for a long time so I’m sure he enjoyed the intimacy. I do believe that one can fall in love quickly, but I think this was more of a case of lust… I’m not sure if we will meet again, but at the very least, we now have good stories to tell.

Ben and I will be in Seoul until next Tuesday. Who knows what adventures there will be until then… We have been invited to the country house of Ben’s interpreter at the immigration office in Changwon- she happens to be from Seoul and we met her on Monday. I feel very grateful for all the people who have helped us along the way on this trip! After staying at the country house, we plan to go to Hong Kong and stay on organic farms until we start working in China in October.

If you have any questions, send me an email to miriam@askmiriam.ca

Good Things Come in Threes

I’m sure that when you saw the title of this post, you thought I was talking about group sex or specifically threesomes. I actually want to talk about my theory of what a good relationship consists of. I have often spoken about this with friends and lovers, but I have never written about it here so I thought this was a good time to do so.

First, good communication. Yes I know I have written about this in many posts, but it can never be emphasized enough, especially with regard to polyamory. We have to be open about what and who we want. When we have partners, they have to know what’s going on. We have to check in and give heads up like there is no tomorrow. I think good communication is often missing from monogamous relationships. You can never underestimate the power of an amazing conversation or just sharing stories from your past. When secrets are revealed to me, I feel closer to the person I’m with. This is often multiplied in polyamory because if I’m dating someone who is in a relationship with someone else, that other partner and I can talk about our own mutual partner. I might tell that person things they didn’t know about our partner. Also, if my partner has an ex I am friends with, I can talk to the ex about what my partner did in the past. This can be very powerful stuff.

Next, good sex. Okay so this post isn’t entirely devoid of sex, but this isn’t specifically about threesomes. When you have good chemistry in life, this can often translate to chemistry in the bedroom. I once heard someone say that the best quality a lover can have is creativity. You have to mix things up sometimes, especially if you are in a long term relationship. Creativity can include lots of things like trying a new position, adding things like BDSM or other types of kink, having sex in different places, testing out whether different points on the body are sensitive, etc. Ok, it can also include things like threesomes and group sex. As long as all partners are satisfied, you’re on the right track. And remember, consent is very very sexy. If you’re planning to try something very different and new for everyone, talk about it first and if needed, plan for it. You may need to go out and get new things; another fun adventure to have together.

Finally, and I think this is something that can be neglected but is very important, good food. This is especially pertinent if you are living together or you spend lots of time in each other’s homes. Go food shopping together or go fruit picking somewhere. Cook together. Eat together and talk while you do so; turn off the TV and computers and I promise, you will be happier. Whether the relationship is romantic or not, good food is important. I just spent a few days at Ben’s mother’s home in eastern Ontario and played cook for a few meals, as they had lots of housework and yardwork to do. Ben’s mom really appreciated the effort I went to. I also happen to like cooking, so it’s not a bother for me. Ben likes doing dishes, so we complement each other well in that regard. Ben has told me before that when we’re apart, he misses my food. That is always a great compliment to get. The food you make doesn’t have to be complicated and many people have simple tastes. I personally like to make simple things because food usually gets on the table faster that way.

Of course, there are other things that make a relationship work, but I think these are 3 very basic things we need to get right. Good communication challenges our brains and good sex and food satisfies our bodies. If you have any questions on how to get these 3 things right, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thanks as always for reading!

AskMiriam About Sex

Question: Do you need to have feelings for someone before you have sex with them?

Answer: Sex is a funny thing in our society and just in general. People have many different reasons for doing it. There have been times when I have had sex just because I was very horny. I will admit that there have been times where I didn’t really care who I had sex with and consequently, I didn’t have to have feelings for them. However, I don’t feel like that now. When Ben and I have sex, it means something to me. It’s very pleasurable but it also expresses how close we are. He and I live in different places, so there are times when we both want to have sex, but we can’t do it with each other. Polyamory allows us to have sex with others and it will always be different from how he and I have sex. I appreciate variety in my life, so I enjoy it, but sometimes I miss having sex with him when I’m having sex with someone else. For example, I was at a sex club recently and I had sex with another guy. After he and I finished up, he left. I pretty much always want to cuddle after sex and Ben always gives that to me. That guy did not cuddle with me and I felt a little lonely afterward. I happened to be at the club with a friend of mine and she and I cuddled, which was very nice. 

With regard to sex, everyone is different and that’s what makes sex great. You, dear reader, may find that you can have sex with someone without having feelings for them. You may also find that you really like someone and you want to have sex with them. I try to have sex with people who I feel are good. Even if we only have sex once, I want both of us to have a good time and to care about each other, at least for that hour or however long we are together. That can usually be accomplished by asking the other person what they like and I always ask for someone’s STI status. It’s important to know who are getting into bed with. And finally, dear reader, you will find that there are times when both you and the person you are with are horny and you may both not have feelings for each other – that is okay. Sex is a need for most people and when you can be upfront and honest about it, you will be better… off.

Let’s Talk about Sex

For people who know me who read this blog, you know that I like talking about sex. I think that sex needs to be discussed more often in daily life. When I was very little, my mom taught child birth education. In our garage, we had large diagrams of penises and vaginas. My mom recently told me that I used to show these diagrams to the neighbourhood kids. These days, I just talk about sex at parties. I realize that this scares people off sometimes but I have to admit that I enjoy pushing people’s buttons. The only problem is that there are times when I do talk about it and the person I’m talking to thinks that I’m into them. I had an experience in July of last year when I visited Chicago. I met a friend of a friend and I shared some poetry of a sexual nature with him. He thought that I liked him when in fact I wasn’t attracted to him in the slightest. I just enjoy sharing my poetry and I’m used to performing so I’m not shy about it.

One of the things I like about the poly community is that we talk about sex. In fact, we have to. When I attended the Loving More polyamory conference in Philadelphia in February, one of the speakers reported that poly people get tested for STIs more often than monogamous people do. We have to be careful about our own health as well as the health of our partners and metamours. Unfortunately, STI testing is not always accurate and there are many things we don’t test for. Currently, about 80% of the population carries around HPV (human papilloma virus) and there is a vaccine for it, but it is not tested for in most STI tests. I had a discussion once with an ex about STI testing and after a lot of reading, we weren’t sure if any of the information out there is sex positive. I’ve also heard that if you are worried about STIs, you are less likely to take precautions when you have sex. Rates of transmission for oral sex also seem to be low. What is a person to do about all of this? If I am at a club or with a new partner, for example, I always ask them if they have been tested. I only play with people I feel I can trust. Some people want to see a full STI workup before they have sex with someone. You have to do what’s right for you. The most important thing is to have the conversation. It can be a difficult thing to do but we did not become poly to make our lives easier. My new partner and I have recently had conversations about sex and STIs and the rewards are well worth it. The ability to talk about these subjects in a relationship is paramount and can bring couples closer.

One thing I find interesting about poly is its relation to sex drive. It often seems that being able to love openly suddenly makes one want to have more sex. I think this can be a great development for women because we are often taught to repress our sexual desire. I sometimes find it a bit disturbing for men, though. I think it’s fantastic when the men want to please their partners and they put their partners’ needs ahead of their own, which I find most poly men do. However, for men with very high sex drives, they may become very demanding. Men are programmed to spread their seed and I think poly can make that urge even higher. I don’t pretend that I can speak for men because I am not one, but I will say that consent is extremely important. Sex should be fun, after all…

Don’t forget to send me your questions to miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thanks for continuing to read this blog!    

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