#85 How to Avoid Relationship Drama (in a Polyamorous or Monogamous Relationship) with Minx
Men do not like drama. I assume women don't either, but we often talk about the fact that men don't like it and that they are getting more of it from women. Is that true? What is drama? Can we differentiate between healthy emotional processing and drama? What is our responsibility, and that of our girlfriend or wife? Where is it all coming from?
We're going to ask a lot of questions about drama today and, in general, managing issues in relationships. What we're going to be doing is looking at, first of all, polyamory because polyamory is basically a set of relationships that are more complex. It involves more than just two people, and the way that's it is set up. So it has the potential to create more conflicts and more drama. It's a great place to learn how to better manage your relationships.
Of course, all of it applies to every other type of relationship as well - monogamy, marriage, girlfriend, and so on. This is going to be solid stuff for all of those scenarios.
Today we have Minx, from the Polamory Weekly Podcast (Polyweekly.com). I have to say, her podcast makes me look like an utter beginner at this whole game, because she's been in this for 10 years. They just celebrated their 10-year anniversary of the podcast and she has nearly 500 episodes out there. I haven't even made a hundred yet. So, we have someone who has some serious experience here and it's very focused on the area of polyamory, and they're often discussing relationship issues.
She also speaks regularly at polyamory and sex positive conferences. I saw one of her presentations and I thought it was great quality. It had a lot of really solid advice. That's why I ask her to come onto the podcast, apart from the fact that she's just really experienced in all this stuff. The name of her talk was: Kicking Poly Drama in the Ass. This is really about developing relationship quality skills - maintaining, sustaining, and ensuring the quality of your relationships so they don't get damaged over time unnecessarily. This is a really, really key skill set everyone should develop, no matter where you are.
Some of you - what you are going to find in this - are going to be looking at drama in new ways afterwards. I'm betting some of you will realize even that what you thought was drama was actually something else, and you may even learn quite a bit about yourselves.
This is a great interview full of great information and advice. Hope you enjoy it.
Specifically, in this episode you'll learn about:
- Minx' background and dating lifestyle (03:50)
- Dealing with relationship drama in polyamory and developing a level of self-awareness (10:08)
- How a man can tell if it's his emotions that are generating a woman's dramatic response versus hers (16:47)
- Minx discusses her user manual called: RTFM (Read The Fucking Manual) and how men can create the same in order to learn more about themselves, and make that more concrete (17:38)
- Introducing your user manual to your partner (21:02)
- Feedback from people that have created their own user manual (24:34)
- The comfort level of being honest and direct when talking to a potential partner during first dates (25:40)
- What should you do when you decide that your partner or the person that you're involved with is causing some kind of drama? (29:24)
- Things to do when you have not taken the steps to diffuse the drama earlier (32:47)
- How men can handle their emotions when having to "own up" to their own actions and the emotional responses they get from their partner (35:50)
- Is there a distinct structure that reflects owning your emotions and not pushing them on someone else? (40:16)
- The possible negative reaction to bringing up owning your negative emotions (41:25)
- How to communicate to your partner when you are troubled about something he/she is doing (46:08)
- Rewarding the right behaviors when communicating (49:57)
- The best ways to connect with Minx and learn about her (see show notes below) (51:50)
- Who besides yourself, and what, would you recommend for quality advice in this area? (52:52)
- Top three recommendations for men starting from scratch to improve their dating life as fast as possible (55:00)
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Items Mentioned in this Episode include:
- Polyweekly.com: Minx' blog and podcast site for information and issues regarding responsible non-monogamy, communication, sex, kink, manners, dating, family and time management, and other perspectives - from a pansexual, kink-friendly point of view.
- Kicking Poly Drama in the Ass: Minx' seminar and presentation about what "drama" actually is and kicking it on its ass for a drama-free poly relationship.
- RTFM (Read The Fucking Manual): The User Manual by Minx. How men can create their own user manual in order to learn more about themselves, and make that more concrete.
- Eight Things I Wish I'd Known About Polyamory by Cunning Minx.
- Poly Weekly on Facebook: Society and culture website by Minx.
- Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (Marshall B. Rosenberg): Angel mentioned this book while discussing a possible distinct structure that reflects owning your emotions. Minx also recommends this book to deal with difficult and crucial conversations.
- Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships (Tristan Taormino): Minx recommends this book for high quality advice regarding polyamory or some kind of non-monogamy.
- More Than Two: A practical guide to ethical polyamory (Eve Rickert, Franklin Veaux): To learn more about relationships and poly-ethics, Minx recommends this book.
Minx recommends the following podcasts:
Sex Nerd Sandra: Considered an irreverent and educational show offering sex tips, techniques, and other information; while explaining the science behind it.
Sex Talk Radio Network: Offering an holistic approach to real issues and solutions to your sex life, romance, love, and relationships.
Ropecast: A long-running podcast about kink.
Passion University: Providing passion-based education for personal growth and fulfillment, social evolution, and global wellness.
Books, Courses and Training from Cunning Minx
Full Text Transcript of the Interview
[Angel Donovan]: Hi Minx, it is so great to have you on the show.
[Minx]: It is great to be here. Thanks for having me Angel.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent. This is one of the few times we have had a podcast on the show, that is always good because I know you have spoken a lot live as well. So I am sure it is going to be a great conversation.
We like to get to know the person like, a lot of people probably have not listened to your podcast. Can you give us details about yourself like how old are you and where do you live, what do you do?
[Minx]: People dont listen to my podcast. I am shocked.
[Angel Donovan]: There must be some in the world somewhere.
[Minx]: There is be one or two somewhere in the world. I go by Minx from Cunning Minx and I am [Unclear 0:04:07] years old.
[Angel Donovan]: You said it was 39.
[Minx]: I am 46. I live in Seattle and I have been poly for, I am doing the podcasts for 10 years this month and poly for slightly longer than that. I actually started the podcast because my first year of polyamory with this amazing guy that I fell in love with and his partner, there was so much drama. Every day of the week it was phone calls and crying and how do we do this and who's not getting attention and just heart-wrenching drama every day of the week.
And I decided to start podcast because I figured if we could save a couple of people some of that drama, then it would be worth it. People just kept listening and kept asking questions and here we are 10 years later.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent. I do not know how many there must be 100s of episodes you have now but there must be quite a stack by now. I am impressed.
[Angel Donovan]: Wow you know the exact number. Looking forward to 500th episode. I bet you are too. That is really a milestone. I don't even think that there are that many podcasts out there with that many episodes. So it is a testament to how interesting it is. So guys, if you are interested in polyamory, then it is a podcast to definitely check out and go listen to Minx for a while.
So, I take it that you are still polyamorous today. Have you been polyamorous the last 10 odd years and is it something you do on an on going basis just to give people an idea of your dating lifestyle?
[Minx]: Well, I self identify as poly so its something I am rather than something I do. There is a question as to - there was quite a few years like 5 or 6 years when I was single and dating and I questioned it was whether I could still identify as a poly.
To me, that's kind of like saying if you do not have a partner, are you still gay? Well no, you are still gay. Even if you are not fucking someone at this moment, you are still gay. That's how I felt that I am polyamorous. So even when I was single and dating a monogamous person and we were monogamous, I still self identify as polyamorous because I like to keep the possibility open and the truth is that for me I know a lot of people feel that they are hard wired to be poly, and they've always been poly and its something that is in their brain chemistry. For me personally, it is more of an orientation.
I have been monogamous, it was fine, I had some good and happy relationships when I was monogamous. I find that polyamory works a lot better for me. I work a lot better when I have a partner and I frankly really like having his wife around because it's nice to be able to send him home so I can have my private time. It is nice to have his wife to talk to when he's being wierd or something is going on and I can do a check in with her. She's like, "Oh yeah, he just does that." Just give him a blow job nap and a cookie and he will be fine. It is nice having three or more of us. I just really like it and it really works for me.
[Angel Donovan]: Do you refer to like 2 girls, 1 guy type of polyamory but of course polyamory can be lots and lots of different ways. Is that just kind of the style that suits you?
[Minx]: I tend to go, for whatever reason, I am sure psychologists can tell you all kinds of reasons why, I tend to go for guys that are in an existing relationship. But it tends to work out that way for me. I have dated guys who are single and it just did not work out very well for me.
I tend to like and date a guy who is married, or has been married, in a healthy relationship. What is really great about that is that he already has the relationship skills. If I am dating somebody who is in a healthy relationship then I know that he can make it work. Plus I have a partner to keep him honest, right?
[Angel Donovan]: It sounds like also that you are quite independent. You said that you know you like your time on your own sometimes. This style could be better for people who are more independent minded.
[Minx]: Right. There are many different types of relationships, and I include monogamy in that as well as polyamory as there are people on this earth.
So one of the things that I think is important to understand is that we get to dictate what our relationship structure is. Society doesn't get to decide that. Just because society shows you a picture of a man, woman, and 2.2 kids and a white picked fence does not mean that has to be your reality.
You can have extra partners, you can have affairs, you can have lovers, you can have intimate friendships, you can have live-in partners, you can have friends who live with you that are not partners. You can just set up whatever you want.
One of the nice things about polyamory is that once you have broken the societel norm and say, "Hey, I'm not just going to fuck one person at a time or love one person at a time. I am going to be open to all the possibilities and we'll just be honest with each other and work it out." Once you do that, then you can kind of throw those traditional structures out the window if you want.
There are plenty of poly people that look like they your monogamous friends. My partner and his wife certainly do and I look fairly vanilla and straight-laced and I dont happen to be. You can construct a relationship in a way that works for you and in a way that's healthiest for all the people involved. It does't have to look like everybody elses.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, well said. Its interesting that you first got into your whole poly weekly podcasts because of drama. In my kind of polyamory years, I struggled with drama also and it went between monogamous again and going back to polyamory because of it. It was the main factor in those kinds of relationships, which did not suit me.
I am not a huge fan of drama. But of course, I think one of the things what you learn about drama and dealing with it and perhaps avoiding it in polyamory is that those types of relationships are often a bit more complicated from that aspect. So everything you have learned there that can be applied to monogamous simpler kind of relaionships and is on the whole applicable. Would you agree with that?
[Minx]: Yes I would say that drama is drama, it has more to do with the people involved than with the relationshhip structure. There are plenty of people are monogamous that go through plenty of drama with regard to their relationship without the benefit of polyamory. Because polyamory is a more destructive relationship structure, there is a propensity for more drama at first, but I really find that if people involved are honest and consenting and self-confident and self-aware adults, that you really, it is very easy to keep the drama to a minimum.
You get drama when you have the adults do not know themselves very well. So they don't know why they act the way they do. They just start acting out.
[Angel Donovan]: What is acting out? What are concrete examples of acting out?
[Minx]: Acting out is a terrible phrase, I guess I should not have used it because acting out is usually used to describe children.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, it's is a little bit of a negative connotation, naughty kind of.
[Minx]: I would insert any situation that you would consider drama; doing things like putting down an ultimatum, having crying fits, or saying things like you don't love me because of X. Doing things like clamping down the relationship saying, Ok, well stop seeing people because I am not happy."
Lets back up to the definition of drama. One of the reasons I actually came up with this seminar called "Kicking poly drama in the ass" is because I felt like sometimes I was accused of having a lot of drama when I did not want to. So I kept asking myself the question, "what's the difference between simply processing your feelings, because something upsetting has happened and that happens to all of us, and what we use the derogatory term drama to describe. And my partner Lustiguy actually came up with the best definition that I've have heard, which is: drama is simply adding amplification to emotional reactions.
One example I like to use is we all have emotional reactions and that is okay. It is normal to have an emotional reaction in times of extreme stress or when you get surprised. So For example, you are in a car accident and you are rear-ended. Most of us, even when we experience something physically and emotionally shocking like that happen, were still able to act like an adult. We check to make sure we are okay, we get out of the car, we check to make sure the other person is okay. We call 911 if needed, maybe we can even exchange insurance and then we go home and we cry or we drink.
Now an example of adding drama to that would be jumping out of the car and screaming at the other driver, "Why do you hate me?" So most of us can keep from doing that, can keep from throwing a tantrum or from making it personal or from adding amplification to a particular event. Does that make sense?
[Angel Donovan]: It does and I think it is a very important topic. Especially, I think this is stereotyping is the case, when a lot of guys tend to say women are being overly dramatic and they're causing drama. They are being overly emotional. I think women can be more emotional and it is natural like you said and some guys too. But it tends to be women who are so. I have had girlfriends who are pretty emotional. But when you appreciate that they are just like that, it does not have to become drama. So I think a lot of time guys are putting this frame on something and say, "You are just being dramatic again". So in fact, as you said, they are kind of just processing their emotions and that's the way they are.
[Minx]: That's what I mentioned earlier. It's like having a level of self-awareness because I think in those situations what is going on is that in your example, the men are having a reaction to womens' emotions. So women are experiencing their emotions like people do and the men do not realize that they are having emotional reactions to their partner.
Because a lot of men in particular are programmed to have strong reactions to for example women crying. It is not uncommon for man to accuse a woman of being manipulative through tears. Now, that's based on the guys past experiences. The women may or may not be trying to manipulate the guy through tears. But, we all have programmed responses based on our past experiences. So that for some people, when they see women crying, they going to have a strong emotional response. It could be anger because that was used to manipulate them in the past. It could be empathy so that they cry right along with them. There can be a whole host of different responses.
So one of the things I talk about in our drama class is you need to "own your shit". When you have an emotional reaction to a situation, such as car accident or a women crying, you need to understand what your reaction is and you need to own it and say, "This is mine". It may or may not be a reality, but this is how I react to it.
When I bring this up in classes, it is so interesting because a lot of couples raise their hand and a woman will say, "I cry all the time and my partners would get upset with me because they thought I was trying to manipulate them. So I had to tell them no, this is just what I do. Let me cry for 5 minutes, then give me a cat to pet and I'll be fine."
Once the partner understood that and that behavior is reinforced, they can easily move past it, no more drama. It is just a matter of understanding how you act the way you do - that level of self-awareness - and also be able to own your shit, and understand that if you are having a visceral reaction to something, that's yours. It's not the fault of the person or the action that is causing it.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah. You mentioned a number of things. I think the first one is interpretation for example some guys have not had experience with women to see the range of emotions and characters women have. So if it comes across like some girls they just have to cry sometimes, And I have had girl friends like that, it was not a big deal for them they just cry, they are quite happy with that. As you say the guy does not understand that he ends up making a big deal out of it and placing his frame on it thus creating the issue where the guy in his head like she is creating the situation but he is actually creating the situation by doind that.
The second thing you brought up is that communication. If you give her the space to be able to communicate like crying is no big deal for me, I do it twice a day, some women are just wired that way, then it is not a big deal for them. I think communication is the key thing here and I am sure you are going to get lot more into that.
In terms of owning their own shit, how can a guy tell if it is his emotions which are generating this response versus hers? Are there tricks to help him figure out his emotions and understand himself or understand where it is coming from him versus the women?
[Minx]: I am a big believer that in order to be in a happy healthy relationship, you have to know yourself. You have to know how you act and you have to know why you act in the ways that you do.
I am in my 40s. There are very few people in their 40s who do not have some level of emotional baggage. People in their 20s and then there are teens have emotional baggage. We are all special little snow flakes and we have all had our own experiences and it is really not fair to expect your partner to guess at what those are. So I am a big fan of doing this activity that I call writing your own user manual. You can find mine I have actually posted mine online at polyweekly.com and search for RTFM as in Read the fucking manual. You will find my user manual that I wrote it 10 years ago.
[Angel Donovan]: We will put a link to that.
Again, this is not a dating profile. This is who I am, how I act and why I act the way I do. So the first part is for an example ofv your family background and history. It is important to know I am a middle child and its important to know my relationship with my older brothers and my family because that informs my current relationships. It is important to know I write things like how to turn me on sexually, how to flirt with me, how to argue with me, how not to argue with me. What is special to me in terms of dating or gifts, and things like that. It is more about how I operate.
[Angel Donovan]: Is it like a one page to give people a quick idea, is it a one pager or what would you advice and my guessing is it has evolved over time as well?
[Minx]: It actually has'n evolved very much. I wrote it years ago and the thing is because this is who I am and how I operate, it does'n change. This is not like oh, my favorite movie last year was this, and my favorite movie this year is this or I used to be a meat eater and now I am vegetarian.
This is who I am and why I operate the way I do, this is the part of me that does not really change very much. For example the way that my family history influences me that does not really change too much. I may have a different approach to it from year to year but the way that it influences me is fairly similar.
And again this document I have got it on a blog post, its kind of a long blog post like maybe 2 pages printed out, its really basic and simple. Its things like communication turns me on. I would rather have you ask about something or say why are you acting like that or what do you mean by that than to have you guess and act upon that guess.
I also think its really hot when guys cry. It shows a level of vulnerability, frankly I tend to date manly men with lots of testerone so if they cry in front of me, that is a huge sign of trust and vulnerability. I think that is great. I give you permission to cry in front of me. You do not have to cry everyday or anything but it is okay because I take that as a sign of trust. It is things like that. Does that make sense?
[Angel Donovan]: It does, it strikes me as an awesome tool. And I think everyone at home you should be doing this as homework if you really want to build your self awareness, I mean we spoke about awreness before but it strikes me as a great tool for guys who want to learn about themselves and make that more concrete.
[Minx]: And one of the things I learned from my partner Lustyguy is, he is fond of saying you are the expert on you. So you get to decide why it is that you are acting the way you do. It is very annoying to have your partner say I think you are acting this way because of Ex.
So in our relationship we are the expert on ourselves. Now that being said, my partner does often have some insights on my behavior but he will always prefice it with look, Minx you are the expert on you. Here is what I see in this situation.
And that can get you out of some very tricky situations when maybe your partner is not being completely self aware and you want to acknowledge that they do have a level of self awareness but as an outside observer sometimes you can add some information to that.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent. So when would you use this? First of all it strikes me just as an exercise everyone should be doing and if even if they are not going to show it to anyone because then in their conversations with their partners whoever it is they are not going to be able to get things straight.
Because I think a lot of people don't have those things straight in their heads and when they are written down it becomes a lot more concrete and less fluid and it is kind of like you set boundaries. First thing is it is great to do at home but in terms of introducing that to your partners, is there anything you've suggested in the past or is it just like I said just through conversations?
[Minx]: It is funny, I wrote my own user manual because I thought it was a very important activity for self awareness. And I do think that a lot of the root of drama and decent in adult relationships is because we just don't know ourselves very well and I just thought it was important for me to write mine now. I never actually intended to give mine to anyone but I did post it online so that other people could have a model to write their own user manual.
Now what is funny is that when I met Lusty guy, I asked him out through Facebook. And after that he googled me, the user manual idea is actually one of the most popular on my blog, so he found my user manual and he read it before our first date.
[Angel Donovan]: He did his homework. i love the guy who does his homework.
[Minx]: He did his homework. The way he tells his story, he was sitting with his wife saying, Oh my God look she is giving me the keys to the kingdom, it is all right here. And he is fond of saying that if a women, is kind enough to give you the keys to the kingdom, you damn well better read them and follow them. So he actually showed up on our first date wearing a kilt and a poofy shirt because I specified in my "how to flirt with me" section that I like a guy in a kilt and a poofy shirt and quoting the princess bride
So he did all of those and when I realized that he'd read my user manual it took me a second, Oh well he showed up in a kilt and a poofy shirt, which is for Seattle not that wierd but it is kind of specific and then I realized that he must have found my user manual and I turned funny shades of red but he actually came with questions and said ok I have read it, I've studied it and I have some follow up questions.
[Angel Donovan]: I can imagine that made for a very interesting date.
[Minx]: Once I got over my initial embarrasment, it actually made the date go very smoothly. Everything that was in the user manual are things I would have eventually brought up as we dated but it would have happened over time and some of them he probably would have stumbled over or found accidently versus just having it written out. So he really appreciated it. But that being said.
[Angel Donovan]: There could have been land mines.
[Minx]: Exactly. This is my way of just sort of keeping you from hitting land mines accidently because your last girl friend liked this and it was great for her and maybe it is a trigger for me and so I just want to save you from having that experience.
But that being said the way I feel about it is just as you said that it's a great experience of self awareness. It makes it easier when things do come up for you to be able to describe your background and explain why it is that you act the way you do.
I never intended to give this to anyone and I don't actually recommend to giving it to somebody before the first date but I know plenty of people who do that and they say it works up well.
But I do think it is a great exercise just for yourself. When and where you decide to show this to anyone else is upto you. I don't have any specific recommendations for that.
[Angel Donovan]:I can see some applications for it but for that have you seen guys using this like if you converse or podcast, who have done that or talking about that just to give us a gauge on that?
[Minx]: Yeah few of my listeners have sent me their user manuals and by and large most of them are women but there were about 20 to 30 percent guys that sent me user manuals. Yes.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent. Just to make sure guys have done that. I think it is great for guys.
[Minx]: And I think what's funny is a couple of them wrote it in a language of user manual, which I thought was fabulous. They are like OK if X occurs, then make sure you do X, if Y occurs then do this, if Z occurs then call support.
[Angel Donovan]: But that makes it at least bit humorous as well.
[Minx]: It was really fun actually. It was very handy especially for people who have things like a medical condition where you do need to know what to do in the case of that medical condition. And you do need to A. know what the medicine is, B. know what the procedure is for dealing with it and C, know what the wife's phone number is that you can call her. That is actually very handy.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah absolutely. So a couple of contexts I was thinking would be you could be more forward with it, and the first is online dating, if you are giving lots, lots and lots of messages, I found it's good to put more on your online manual, your user manual in your profile, and it kind of filters that a lot out right, so you get a lot more people that are relevant. And also if you are very time conscious and you do not want to be going on dates with people who potentionally have put a different front to how they actually are, then it is going to be a waste of time going on a date.
I find that is pretty useful, like putting more stuff out which is really critical to users. Basically it is this kind of stuff that would turn people away naturally that are not relevant.
[Minx]:Yes I can see that.
[Angel Donovan]: Second one is the conversations I have had on dates, where we started discussing this within the first 10 minutes and it ends up being a great date, like when you were saying with Lusty guy it was a great date. But I think it is specific to two people who I think mostly are being polyamorous or involved in that kind of community some time or are just very mature and very self aware because it is not the kind of things you can bring out with everyone. Not everyone is used to this kind of way of talking.
[Minx]: I would argue a bit with that and say that most people do appreciate honesty in the dating world. Some may be taken aback because they are not used to it and that is true, maybe this is just my own personal bias but if somebody does not appreciate my level of honesty then I probably do not want to date that person.
If you want to play games, then I am not about that. I would rather just be honest upfront and let you know who I am so you can take it further or reject me right off the bat. But I suppose some people do like to play games when they date and play that game of chicken and I have never been good at that. I have never enjoyed it so I couldn't really speak to that.
[Angel Donovan]: Some people I fee like it's not like they want to play games, it is like they do not have comfort level with being direct I feel and they also do not want to upset the emotional vibe of the date and so they do not feel comfortable with some kind of straight talk which they feel like you know that's the kind of stuff you leave for a relationship whereas some people feel very comfortable with that kind of stuff. So that is where I was coming from, I do not know if that helps fit with your world a bit better.
[Minx]: Yeah I could see that, it is not how I function to be sure and to me having a level of discomfort with honesty, I mean I am not talking about being blunt, right I am not talking about oh you know your ass looks fat in that dress. I am just talking about being upfront about you in particular. If somebody doesn't appreciate it, I guess maybe because I am in my 40s I just do not have the patience for it.
I think communication is sexy. I think being honest and direct about what you want is sexy. I do not think it adds to the mystery personally to have polite conversations and to avoid these topics and to hit the landmines. I have to admit I am a little biased I think being unwilling to be honest especially in those first few days shows a lack of confidence and I tend to think that's a little unsexy too. I feel like I have just like I have just dissed half of your listeners and they are going to be hanging up now and turning off the podcast.
[Angel Donovan]: No I think they like to be challenged, that's what we tell them. It's good to be challenged. So yeah I agree with you about confidence and things like that, I think we are talking slightly in different words. I think also we get older, we like to be more direct and we're less hung up about being direct. In particular I find younger people like 21 years old, especially being in cultures like Asia they have lot of things go unsaid in their culture especially Japan and places like that. So I think it really depends on the person and where they are coming from but some people just don't have that comfort level that you tend to develop and get better at as you get older and certainly by late 30s, 40 and you start to be a lot more comfortable and direct with that. That is what I have seen. So, anyway I wanted to get into more practical stuff. If you decide that there is drama going on and you decide that it is the other person, we talked a little about what is drama and what is yours and what it would be coming from them.
What should you do if you decide that your partner or the person you are involved with is causing some kind of drama? How would you tackle it?
[Minx]: The first thing I would say is let's back up a little bit and talk about more ways to prevent drama, so you have got your user manual, you have your self awareness, you are honest about who you are and you are owning your own shit. It is also important to communicate, I call it communicate early and often, so it is important to have regular points of communication when there is not drama because it is a really easy way to head off drama at the path.
So something that Lusty guy and his wife do is they have had a regular date night once a week for the last 30 years that they have been married. And so they will actually do is a state of the relationship talk, so they go on a date night and they do a state of the relationship talk. So they say, hey, how are you feeling about things? And it's great because, this is a non threatening, non escalated format in which you can bring up things that might, they are tiny, they are not drama yet, but they be teeny tiny things that are bothering you and that you can in a non threatning and non threatening escalating envirnonment make your partner aware of them.
For example I am a little stressed about money right now because the pay checks have not been regular or I am getting little annoyed because you are leaving your clothes on the floor a little more than usual or I am a little stressed because your brother is coming to town next week and we do not get along. Or it is been a while since we had sex it is okay but I am getting a little concerned so I just wanted to bring that up.
And it's such a good idea, I thought it was brilliant that they do this. They bring these things up once a week just to have an awareness of the state of the relationship. This is not a time when they sit and they discuss things for 3 hours. They bring it up, the partner says ok yeah I can see that. Yeah I have been feeling that too, ok good to know and that's it. You do not have to have a big talk, you do not have to come up with solution.
Just the fact that people involved are aware of what is going on and have acknowledged out loud that there is a small thing that may later become a big thing means that everyone can take ownership and be aware of that. And I find that that, doing things like that heads off 90 percent of drama at the pass.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, I can definitely see that. And you're speaking about specific habits in relationship sounds very great, very cool.But that rule.
[Minx]: But what if you are not doing that?
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah if you are not doing that like what you said before it still counts it is like bring it up at the first sign and it is way better to even as soon as you spot it, even if you do not have these weekly meetings which would be the ideal, you can bring it up on the spot, the first time you kind of notice it.
[Minx]: And that is another bit of advice too, bring something up at the first sign. Do not wait until it is escalated. One of the things I say is that weird and unidentified is okay. Very often when something is not working we just get this feeling that something is a little off and we do not know what it is and we can't quite put our finger on it.
It is important to say something then even if what all you are saying is I feel a little weird, I feel like something is off. I do not know what it is. Now some people can find that frustrating because you are like, ok what am I supposed to do about it. No, nothing just be aware, this is just a statement and usually when that is brought up you will both figure out what it is very quickly.
Now to address your actual question which I so rudely avoided before. What do you do when you find you have not done those things and now you have got drama. You have got something that blew up in your relationship and it is a big deal. So one of the things that I just think is whenever I teach this Kicking poly drama in the ass class, I always say that if you only walk away with one thing from this class, we actually give five things for combatting drama, if you could only walk away with one it would be this, which is what I mentioned earlier, Own your own shit.
When you are having some type of disagreement, or you are having an emotionally heightened situation, own your own shit. My definition of that is take personal responsibility for understanding, diagnosing, analysing and stating the emotions that you are feeling at the time. Understanding, diagnosing, analysing and stating your emotions.
Now that may sound a little psycho babbly and it is but this is a really advanced skill. A lot of people when you are experiencing anger or if you are experiencing fear or frustration or a flight or fight response, it is very difficult while you are still experiencing that to calmly say, "I am experiencing a fight or flight response. This is based on an abusive episode of my childhood and I feel a very strong reaction right now to run away or to stay here to fight violently for myself". That is based on my childhood not something we are generally taught to do in school.
Generally we are taught, you are angry, you get to yell and scream, you get to throw a tantrum and it is fine, people will forgive you. A couple of rules with respect to owning your own shit.
So the first thing is everything you are feeling is okay. We all experience a range of emotions we are angry, we are sad, we are petty. Those are all okay. A lot of people that are polyamorous in particular are resistant to admit that they feel jealousy.
I feel jealous all the time. I do not give it power over me. I feel jealous just like I feel angry or sad or happy or gleeful. I tend to feel petty a lot, a lot of times I feel really petty jealousy, petty little instances, where I feel like somebody is getting more than me or I am not getting my share. I own that. I know that I am like that. It is much easier for me just to say I am feeling really petty right now, I am feeling really jealous, I am feeling abandoned.
It is easier for me to say that than to do the childish thing and act on it and do any one of a number of passive aggressive things that would drive my partners crazy. So feel free to feel whatever you feel. People do not like to admit they have negative emotions. You got to get over that. We all experience negative emotions. Guys, we are all embarrased, we are all angry, we all get jealous at some point, it is okay. Does that make sense?
[Angel Donovan]: You brought on a lot of stuff there. Yeah it is cool. I think the main thing guys are going to be struggling at home when you are talking about feeling petty and things like that. They are going to be struggling with being ashamed of their emotions. Basically not being confident in their own emotions and thinking it is wrong. I think we taught a lot to take control and the kind of negative emotions and to not communicate them especially as a man. I think that is kind of placed on us. So I am sure a lot of the guys at home are feeling like will that respect to that.
So In terms of that obviously in the polyamorous community, it is basically rules and ways to look at things where they say you should respect everyone's emotions and understand them and so on.
But in mainstream society there is lot less of that in general. It is getting better but there is lot less of that. So I guess it is difficult for the guys to decide what am I going to be okay with communicating or what my partner is going to be okay with communicating.
The way I see is some of the guys we have listening to podcasts, a lot of them in fact have not got a lot of experience with women, sometimes that's made them inconfident, they are not very confident with women. And also sometimes it means that for exactly the same reason you said, like bring it up at the first sign, they now have these emotional laden reactions to things, which are may be a lot more over the top in terms of emotion than a lot of people because they have not been having great relationships and experiences with women in the past and they are pissed off or angry and have these negative emotions. They are just sad.
They are depressed maybe so I think that puts in question their own emotions. They do not trust their own emotions and they do not know and I think if they did communicate those, it would become heavy duty for the girl depending on who she is and how mature she is.
Do you have any advice on that? I know it is a really loaded question and it is dificult.
[Minx]: Well I think you bring a really good point. I try to stress upfront that everything you are feeling is okay. The negative emotions you're feelings are all okay. However you are correct that a lot of people do not have that philosophy, if you come and say I am angry or I am upset or Im' jealous, you can get very easily get a negative reaction from someone else. And now keep in mind that that is based on that person's emotional baggage, right?
That person then needs to own their own shit. And one of the things I point out in terms of shit owning is that I think this is a healthy and good thing for all adults to be able to do whether it is in your intimate relationships, at your job, with your family I think this is just a good thing to practice all the time. If you are not comfortable doing it in your romantic relationships, practice it with your familial relationships, yes mom you're right, I did not do the dishes, that is absolutely right, I should have, I apologize.
In the office, own your own shit, yes I am the reason that this project was delayed for 3 days. Please do not blame anybody else. I got caught up with other things. That is all on me. Owning your own shit is incredibly empowering. So if you are not comfortable doing it in a romantic relationships yet, practice it in other places.
But with the acknowledgement that, yes sometimes when you own your own shit, it is just gives people more ammunition to shoot you down and there is not a lot you can do about that, except in certain situatioins, you can then ask the other person to own their shit. This is very tricky and there is not really a good and easy way to do it.
There have been times when I did all the right things, and I owned my own shit and I was like I have to admit I was feeling this and this was with a metamor who was my partner's wife. Metamor being my partner's partner with whom I am not romantically involved. There is one relationship in particular where she and I were just always butting heads. We never really got along despite all my efforts to do so. I think I probably pushed a little too hard to be honest.
But this was one situation where I was owning my shit even though it was really really hard to own my shit because whenever I did she would blame me like I would come up and say, "this is what I did, I was feeling this way, I am sorry, it really wasn't right". And she would look at me and say, "Yeah you are right. You are a terrible person. That was the wrong way to act, you are really awful". There is always a chance that that can happen and it really does not feel good.
It is not a pleasant experience. But I am a big believer that taking personal responsibility for myself, not for anyone else, but only for myself is incredibly empowering. So what I have done in those situations is things like Okay you know I have said that I believe it takes two people to make a miscommunicate, so I have owned my part and this is what I did wrong and you have agreed with that, you know is there any thing you can think of maybe not that you did wrong but that maybe next time you might be able to do a little bit differently knowing what you know now and sometimes that would garner response.
[Angel Donovan]: What strikes me I mean one of the important things is this. No matter or if say or do you have some emotions which are over charged compared to when you communicate those, if you have good approaches to communication and you have been giving us examples of those, but I do not know if you have a distinct structure that you think about which reflects owning your emotions and not pushing on someone else, I do not know if you've seen in the courses of non violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Because it seems like some of the things the way you are talking sounds like you have seen some of that information, and you've been doing something similar.
Basically do you have structures you can give us now which would help even if we have got a really strong emotion we are trying to communicate which will not cause a reaction from the other person and create drama we are trying to avoid?
[Minx]: I am not a psychologist and I would highly recommend there are couple of really good books out, there's one called, "Typical conversations". I was just recommending one called "Crucial conversations", non violent communication as you said. And if you want that level of detail I would recommend something like that.
What I embrace is something that is a little more. It is little higher level because I usually teach courses that teaches it in a little over an hour, maybe an hour and a half. So it is enough to give you the building blocks but I do not have those particular exchanges. I would say that I wanted to circle back and acknowledge one other thing that you were asking about, which is it can be really scary and can risk a negative reaction.
If you do bring up owning your negative emotions, people can have a negative reaction to that. And to that I would say one of the benefits of accepting the fact that your emotions come from within you and that there is not someone out there who's making you feel something or making you do something but that this is simply your reaction that you are having to outside stimuli based on your past experiences, that means that you are also empowered to understand and then affect your emotions. Once you understand your emotions and once you understand why you act the way you do, at least in some broad issues, it is incredibly empowering.
Now will you always get a positive response when you own your shit, no. To be honest, no. Some people are not going to get a good response to that.
I will say that the more I have been doing it over the last 5 years or so, I am very fortunate that I almost always get a positive response. There have been very few times when Lusty guy and I had anything that would be called an argument because we tend to head things off in the past by communicating things early and often. But there have been two instances that I can think of where something happened and things, emotions sprung up fairly really quickly and things got a little out of hand and the emotional fall out to each of the situations lasted about 10 minutes because in both cases I was the party that was being insensitive as I sometimes am a little clueless.
And once it was pointed out to me that my partner was having a reaction to my actions and I took a look at how I was feeling and why I had acted the way I did and realised, Oh shit, Of course he would react that way. So my first reaction was to, "you'e right, I am sorry, this is what I was thinking, this is what I was feeling, I could totally see why you would have that reaction, it is not what I intended, I love you, and boom it is done in 10 freaking minutes, why? Because I don't have any ego. I do not feel like I have to say, no I was right to do this.
I have the confidence to know this was just my reaction, it is okay, it's not my fault that my partner had a bad reaction to something I did that was maybe a little insensitive or was not what he needed that is okay, that shit happens. And taking the ego out of it and just being able to understand that I acted this way that is okay, I still love myself. It makes it so easy for me to just say, shit you are right, I am sorry, not what I meant, I love you, here have a cookie, so much easier.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah and one of the reasons it was possible because the way he approached you, he was not emotionally charged about it right, so he was not creating a reaction.
[Minx]: He was emotionally charged.
[Angel Donovan]: Oh he was. So you were being responsible there.
[Minx]: He was very upset but while he was emotionally charged, he was owning his shit. While he was so upset, that he felt like running away, he was standing there in front of me owning his shit saying this is how I feel right now, I am feeling this way based on how you just acted. So even though he was in an extreme emotional state, he could still describe his emotions and own his shit, which meant that.
[Angel Donovan]: It sounds like he has kept his calm.
[Minx]: He did.
[Angel Donovan]: He hardly let himself out of control. I think that Whenever people don't communicate with calm when they let it get emotional or so, and I feel like we skipped just a little on this topic, is that one of the reasons that you have to bring it up early is that you do not want to come up a few times and every time they get a little more emotional about it. The emotions start brooding. And then once it has happened 10 times, it has got more and more emotional, and then there is an explosion and even if you want to talk about it, it is going to be emotional whether you feel calm or not just because it has been building. Is that the way you look at it?
[Minx]: It is not so much about being calm, it's having the ability to experience a negative emotion and at the same time describe it, which I suppose is in a calm tone of voice, yes, but understanding that especially if you have a partner who has had some kind of abuse or who has PTSD. Those people learn to feel the trigger to those extreme emotions and be able to describe it at the same time, they learn to do that through therapy. I think we all should be able to do that. So you are right, it's being able to experience your extreme anger or rage and at the same time say I am feeling really angry right now.
And we should all practice that, because it is incredibly beneficial because then your partner can react to what you are saying instead of running away because you just punched the wall.
[Angel Donovan]: So I guess what what we want to do is also looking at it from the other side, say a guy is dating a girl, and she comes to him and she communicates to him that she is having some trouble with what he is doing, have you got any tips on how he should respond? What will be helpful ways to respond?
[Minx]: So the first thing you do is listen, don't argue. I find that when somebody is telling me about behavior that I have that makes them feel a certain way, my first instinct is to defend myself and say, no no that is not what I meant, or no no why would you act that way, my last partner didn't.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah That is everyone's instinct.
[Minx]: Yeah. It is so hard but you have to shut up, you have to shut up and listen. You have to let the person talk. You can take notes if you want. This is something I used to do. I would like write things down, like things I wanted to make sure to address later but you have to let the person talk without interrupting. You have to let her say everything she needs to say and then encourage her to say more, say ok is that all, is there more?
And You will be surprised, if you actually asked, is there more, very often she can talk for another 10 or 20 minutes but if you did not give her the opportunity that would still be inside of her. So you have to be able to listen and you have to be able to hear these things about yourself and have enough self confidence to know that even if it sounds like it is about you, it is not about you, this is about her reactions because they're most likely based on somebody she dated in the past or based on family experience.
These reactions that she is having are basically informed by her past experiences so most likely it is not about you, it's just that you are just reminding her of these things, so I would encourage you to listen very carefully and then ask, do you want me to listen or do you want me to offer a solution? I encourage both men and women because sometimes we just want to be heard and simply feeling that my partner hears what I am saying is enough. I don't need any solutions, I don't need a promise to change, I just need to feel my partner heard me and that's it. And now we can go to dinner, we can have sex, it is all good.
Sometimes I actually I don't know what to do and I am very distraught because I feel there is no solution, and so sometimes I actually do want my partner to come up with possible solutions. Now a lot of us are fixers and a lot of men in particular they go straight to the solution, so the second woman says, you know I am jealous the partner may say okay we will not be poly anymore. Well jealousy is based on insecurity and so even if you shut down your relationship and become monogamous that insecurity is still there and that does not really solve it. Ask what your partner wants, if you are not sure, then just ask. Say,do you want me to listen? Do you want a solution? What do you want from me right now? What would be best? What would make you feel best in this situation?
Now she may ask something that's completely unrealistic, that is okay. You are giving her the power, right? You are letting her say this is what I want. Now, that is when the negotiation starts.
One of the big things we talk about in poly relationships and in relationships in general is ask what you want. If you do not ask for something, you will probably not get it. Now that being said, A lot of people ask in relationships for things they want but that they are not going to get. So you also have to be able to hear a no.
If she says, ok we need to be not poly anymore and you still want to be poly then this is when you open up negotiation and say, Okay I hear that you would feel more comfortable if we were monogamous again, now that you have said what you want, here is what I want and then you start the process of negotiating.
I kind of segwayed from emotional support into a negotiation, which is a little bit of crossing lines there, but does that make sense if you are in the midst of drama, and someone is upset, you really want to listen.
[Angel Donovan]: Right, right. It's actually a couple of things that's in the presentation, your presentation which I would like to bring up because they are really cool and they added to what you just said, is that you talked about rewarding the right behaviors so when someone has done that emotonal processing and taken the courage to give you the information kind of like users manual, this is what is going on right now, then you really want to reward that kind of behavior in relationships rather than reacting to some of the negative reactions but I think you talk a bit more about it but you gave some tips on reacting basically positively to it, right, to make aure you are rewarding those kinds of behavior and encouraging it.
[Minx]: Exactly and that can be hard to do if somebody is accusing you or you feel like your partner is accusing you of something or pulling out your negative traits, it can be very diffcult but I am a big believer in "Works for dogs works for people". You reward the positive and you correct the negative.
So if someone is kind enough to write the user manual or to tell you what they want or to tell you what they need and to own your shit, you say thank you for doing that, I know that must have been hard, thank you, I really appreciate that. Even if while they were owning their shit, they were also maybe calling you names, well I will not say calling names because that can crossover into abuse, so lets say if they are saying negative things about you, it is still if the spirit of it is still is that they wre owning their own shit, or they are being brave enough to ask for what they want even if your answer to what they want is no, you shoud still thank them for being brave enough to ask for what they want because a lot of peopl don't. A lot of people ill not ask for what they want, they will let the relationship slowly deteriorate.
They will start seeing someone else on the side and they will make you break up with them for a stupid reason because they were too chicken to say what they wanted. So we really should be rewarding this behavior.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent point.This has been a great conversation. We are running out of time unfortunately, maybe we should get you back on the show.
[Minx]: I would be happy to.
[Angel Donovan]: I feel like we have covered half of it. So some of rounding off questions are, first of all, what are the best ways for people to connect with you and learn more about you and your work?
[Minx]: Absolutely. You can find the podcast and all the show notes at polyweekly.com. You can email me at [email protected]. Or also on facebook.com/polyweekly, we are on twitter at polyweekly, we are on googleplus, tumbler. If you search for cunning Minx or polyweekly we are all over the internet and also I should say, can I do a little plug for my book?
[Angel Donovan]: Sure, go for it. I did not know you had a book.
[Minx]: I have an ebook, which you can also order as a paper book from Amazon called, "8 things I wish I had known about polyamory" and we talked about today "kicking polydrama in the ass" is 2 chapters of that book. It is very short. I am not even an inch thick and I am very tiny. But in that book we also have, it is the only place where there is a blank template for writing your own user manual. So if you want a little bit of extra help, the book is something like 8.99. If you go to polyweekly.com and click on the "8 things" tab then you will find how you can order the book.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent. Other than you who besides yourself would you recommend for high quality advice in this area?
[Minx]: Absolutely. So are we talking about books or people, blogs?
[Angel Donovan]:Absolutely anything, any references that people might find useful, could be people that you respect and you've learned from or who ever.
[Minx]: Absolutely. Ok, So Let's start with some books if you are looking for polyamory or some other type of non manogamy, best book out there today is "Opening up" by Christian Teramino. She did an exhaustive study on hundreds of poly couples, groups, triads and what their relationship models were. Her book is almost more like a textbook. She covers the diffrent relationship structures and how they work, so you can get an idea on what structure might work best for you.
There is also a fabulous new book on relationship and polyethics out called "More than 2" by Franklin Woe and Eve Record. Now that is, they are thicker than me, they are over an inch thick but they cover all the ups and downs of morality and ethics with respect to dating and relationships and not just polyamory. They cover all types of relationships, and that's one of the best books out there to date.
In terms of podcasts, if you are podcast listeners, then I would recommend listening to things like "Sex nerd sondra" has a nice podcast, Christina Teramino's her's is called "Sex talk radio" and I am totally blanking.
If you are into kink and if you are into rope in particular my ex-boyfriend, great answer, still has a great podcast called "the Ropecast". That is all about Japanese rope bondage.
[Angel Donovan]: Oh nice.
[Minx]: Yeah, just a little bit of fun there. And if you are and I know this is kind of sickening, kink and poly are kind of related to me, but you can also of course go to, there is "Passionate you" and Kink.com that have all kinds of relationship tips and videos, you can subscribe to find out more aboutto do everything from polyamory to rope bondage to how to tie up your girl friend. So, a little bit of everything there.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent, that is a whole lot of cool references there. I know "opening up" I head my eye on it, to read that for a while, haven't yet got to it.
[Minx]: Excellent book.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, it's already been said to me by several people on the podcast. So, you are in good company. Final question here, what are your top three recommendations to guys starting from scratch that have very little knowledge or experience. How would you suggest that they improve their dating lives as fast as possible? Top three recommendations.
[Minx]: Well, being somebody who is really terrible at dating myself, again I was single for 5, 6 years and I was just, I am just not that great at dating.
What I found works for me, and what I think works for most people is instead of focussing on your dating skills, working on self confidence and the best way to work on your self confidence is to do things that you love.
So for example, if you're really into, I don't know, let's say a lot of science fiction and geeks, if you are into sci-fi, then go to the sci-fi meet-up groups, go to sci-fi conventions, start a meet-up group yourself, start a sci-fi book club, do things that you are really passionate about and doing those on a regular basis especially if you doing something like maybe leading a book club or being a regular member of a group that people know and like and trust, that tends to make us more confident with who we are. I think a lot of issue with dating is that we worry that the other person is going to like us so we feel like we have to be a certain way. And I found that what works for me is when I just go do shit that I love to do.
I am a big salsa dancer so I go out and Salsa dance. I like to go to independent theatre. So I'll go grab a friend and I go see some tiny black box theatre production that only has 50 seats and when I am doing those things that I am into with people I like and care about that I am not dating, that is when I always meet the people that I want to date and it usually works out much better if I meet people in those instances because when I am out at the theatre, when I am out Salsa dancing, when I am my best and happiest and most confident self, so you are kind of setting the stage for yourself, for your own success.
And what is important is that I do not go do those things in order to date. I have never dated anybody I ever met at a salsa club. I go there because it makes me happy and it makes me a confident person. Now it did happen that I met my partner Lusty guy when I saw his one man show but again if I had been sitting at home and moping, why can't I date anybody because at that point I had been date less and sex less for over a year, if you can believe it, I could have been sitting at home and moping, saying why cannot I date anybody or I could have been sitting on an okay cupid, but instead I went out and did something that I loved.
I got a friend and I made a date to go to the theatre. And that is when I saw him on stage and that is when I thought Hey you know what, I am awesome, I could ask that guy out and I did and he said yes and read my user manual and you know the rest.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent. I really like your first one, do what you love.
[Minx]:Do what you love. Yeah. Worry less about dating, worry more about you and when you are a happy and confident person, good shit happens.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent. Thank you Minx for coming on the show, it has been a really good chat. Really interesting, I really enjoyed it myself too.
[Minx]: Yeah it has been really fun Angel, thank you.
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