How can you honor everyone’s needs, including your own? What is the difference between a boundary and an agreement? Can boundaries be manipulative? Hear it all on this episode of the Queer Joy Podcast; where two relationship therapists explore what it looks like to see joy in queer relationships.
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Keely: When we try to control something, that's where the emotional manipulation comes in. Melisa: I want to say too, we've brought up the word manipulation but what I want to air is this idea that it is not always conscious or intentional or for the sake of harming someone else. hello, everyone. Welcome back to Queer Relationships Queer Joy. I'm one of your hosts, Melissa. DeSegiurant. Keely: I am Keely C. Helmick. Melisa: We're excited to have you. We'll start with our introductions. I use she, her pronouns. I'm a white, bisexual polyamorous person, and I'm a marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor at Connective Therapy Collective. Keely: And I am a licensed professional counselor. My pronouns are they, she, I am a white queer non-binary femme. Solo still doing the thing. I'm owner of Connective Therapy Collective so yeah. How are you feeling today, Melissa? Melisa: I am doing good. I have some queer joy I haven't even shared with you because it feels like I want it. I want the authentic reaction, no pressure, but be excited for me. Keely: I'm already like the Melisa: anticipation, like, yeah, this is a day where I'm gonna work on breathing and like making sure I'm talking at a reasonable pace, a lot of joy and pumping through my veins. Right. Keely: Ooooo! I think that's a great thing to honor and think about, especially as sex therapists, like I think about how much fun it is to have that built up anticipation in lots of different areas, not just sex, but it's a great thing to connect to sex. And that joy, like having that. Chill moment to really feel it. Absolutely. So I'm excited. So before that today, we don't have any interview. Again, today we have some time to chat about other stuff, however, Let's check in on some of the questions we received, we really appreciate questions from folks whether it's email or on our Instagram or Facebook. But I found one question that popped up a couple of times, actually in the past couple of weeks, since our workshop. It kind of applies actually to our next workshop, but it applies to queer relationship in general this specifically non-monogamy so the question I thought we could explore is someone asked if you're non-monogamous. Persons are monogamous and they have a partner who wants to date one of their friends. Are we allowed or, you know, the word allowed is very like, what does that even mean? But is it something that's acceptable or realistic to say? Like, what do you, what does someone say to that can kind of person say no to their partners? They know you can't date one of my friends. Melisa: Yeah. But I want to do is invite everyone to like pause. Notice how you're responding to that scenario. For me, there's lots of things happening in response to that idea. Maybe we'll start broad and then dive into it further. But I think the thing we've been wanting to promote is yes, we want to foster security in relationships and connectedness. Yeah. But finding ways to do that, that's not by controlling or manipulating our partner's behavior. Keely: So, what is the difference? You know, let's explore this. What is the difference between making a request part of an agreement? What does manipulation look like? What this controlling behavior in this dynamic look like? Melisa: One thing that we've talked about and we, we mentioned this in our workshop and it's one of those ideas that I've kind of pinned in my brain to keep updating my understanding around, but. The difference between boundaries and agreements. That's where I hear the controlling and manipulative stuff start to happen. Oftentimes in that scenario, for example, I can imagine uh, someone saying, no, you can't go do that. You can't, you can't date my friend. That's a boundary for me, which I'm not sure that that's the appropriate use of the word boundary. Keely: Yes. Yes. Melisa: I like make prep. That's really challenging for me. I think I'm wanting to create an agreement around that. I'm feeling this and this and this, and here's what's going on for me. That might be the conversation and, and it's not to say that perhaps there is the agreement that like, you know what that is, that is something we're going to agree to. We're not going to date one another as friends, and here's a reasoning why? And we'll check in on this agreement in the future and see if it needs to be updated. But I just, it doesn't totally feel like that's the right use of the word boundary. I think, I think what they're saying is like, that's a limitation I have emotionally, I can't handle that. So therefore you need to not do it. Keely: And that's not what a boundary is. A boundary is not about saying you can't do something. Right a boundary is saying, oh, I am not going to engage in this. Melisa: Like, here's my distance that I might need from this situation, if this is what's going to happen. And even as I say that, that's the way I just phrased it is re is dangerous because that can really go into an ultimatum. I'm like, yeah, well, okay. If you do that, then I'm out, I'm out of the relationship and that feels kind of controlling. That's really jumping to . Keely: Controlling and manipulative. I think I. So I'm gonna pause cause there's, my brain is going a million miles an hour. It's a day for pausing.. It's always the day for pausing, but yes, stormy weather everywhere, really hunker in and pause and breathe. Yeah. So when I think about that, the manipulation, the way it's phrased is. When someone, a partner doesn't want another person to engage with another person, they don't get to choose that. But you can say, and this is coming from, so I want to slow down because this is actually a concept. When we talk about the word codependency, when we talk about not just not the word, emotional manipulation, but we tend to use some words that are really normalized in AA culture, alcoholics anonymous, and there's family concepts from this model of craft, the synonym is craft. And so the idea is instead of saying, or sometimes rephrase and instead of saying codependency. It's using the term protective behaviors and recognizing what we're doing in these situations. And so if I don't feel comfortable with a certain person. And for the simplicity of things we know not everyone has like a primary partner, but I'm gonna use the term primary partner to simplify this example. But this can happen in any relational dynamic. So partner A has a friend and partner B doesn't like that friend, or doesn't want them hanging out. So partner B expresses their feelings with I-statements and says, I basically, I don't like this person. So partner A says, okay, but this is my friend. And then partner B says, well, I am not going to hang out with this person. That's a boundary, Melisa: right? Keely: Yeah. Melisa: Yeah. But it is accepting that I have some responsibility to decide how close I want to be to the situation or not. And I can, I can do that. Keely: Yes. So. I think this particular question about whether someone should date someone's friend or not is more complex. I want to start with it more simple. Melisa: Yeah. I'm still, I'm still having some feelings about that question. Keely: Really hard question. Cardinal: Life is full of hard questions, but what if you don't even know what questions to ask? Hey, it's Cardinal bringer of ads and also editor of this podcast to help facilitate some question asking Kelly and Melissa put together a free relationship check-in worksheet for anyone who wants to gauge where their relationship is at in order to shape where it is headed, complete it alone, or with your partner or partners. Link is in the show notes. Okay. Back to the show. Keely: So let's complicate it a little further to include all types of relationships because in the queer community, I think this also comes up when a friend wants to date an ex of somebody's that can happen in monogamous situations, queer community, especially depending on the town can be small. Melisa: And it totally can happen in monogamy. I'm having flashbacks to like college now. Again, I was a theater major. It was a really small program. Insert whatever assumptions you will make, some of them will maybe be true. Many are not, but yeah, that whole it's, it's like the possessiveness over people again, like, you know, even if we're not dating anymore, that's my ex that's my, that's my territory. You know, I don't know if. Again, I always talk about embodiment, right? And like, just that energy that comes into my system, as I say that like, oh, that's not that just icky. There's something for me to work through there. Not to say that we need to be okay with everything and we can never have hard feelings. We have to know, what do I get to control in terms of these hard feelings I'm having? That's my distance to the situation. That's not what the other person is doing. Keely: Yeah. And we, yes. So the point of trying to can, so when we try to control something, that's where the emotional manipulation comes in. Yeah. Yeah. And I think this is an example. There's not a right or wrong answer. Totally totally. We're exploring this and what that looks like. Melisa: I want to say too, we've brought up the word manipulation and I'm glad because it has a really negative connotation to it. And I think understandably so we're, we're kind of promoting that we don't manipulate in that way, but what I want to air is this idea that it is not always conscious or intentional or for the sake of harming someone else. And the reason I think that's really important to say. Is because as someone who has been manipulative for my own safety and unaware of that, like we can't, it's hard. We can't change it unless we can own it for ourselves. But if we're putting all this shame around manipulation, like that's a terrible thing. You did that intentionally that, or make it, maybe it's making meaning. Right. Because I did something manipulative. That means I'm an intentionally harmful person. I'm selfish. I'm all these things I could enter. No, it probably means I was feeling emotionally unsafe and now I get the chance to go back and go like, Ooh, what was going on for me there? How would I like to maybe do things differently in the future? So it's okay. If, if you know, you're hearing this and going like, Ooh, I'm getting all triggered because of that word manipulation. Yeah. Like that's something that we do and we do want to try and be aware of that. And in my opinion, I would like to avoid that. But it's also, it's, it's, it's a normal, like, like we talked about with jealousy being, being a thing that people experience, you know these tendencies to want to get control makes sense. Keely: And we're talking about attachment and we're talking about really looking at ourselves when we can notice those poles that tug to want to control a situation. Well, we really need to understand is, are we trying to control another human being? Are we trying to control another person's actions? And that's why, I mean, in any relationship, but especially when we're talking about non-monogamy, cause there's so many different people in play. It's not just to which even when it's monogamous, there's not, there's never just two people in play. It's just really, monogamy is just being. Having one person that's sexual and romantic, but we always have these other people coming. So we have to look at ourselves and look at our actions and look at our intent and look at the narratives that we create. And what is interesting as, as we continue to expand the definition of relationship and having multiple relationships and different dynamics within these relationships with different people. What does that mean when you're creating these relationships and breaking the norms, which means, you know, cause it's also, I think about like, this brings it to me when people talk about like emotional cheating or the term cheating in general and like monitoring the interactions, monitoring the connection that someone else has with somebody. Melisa: You know, it's funny because as you're saying this, and you brought up this point earlier, like you don't have to like everyone in the system. And if you go back to like Jessica Fern in poly Securus definition for non-monogamy it's that everyone in the system is aware of and consenting to the relationships. Not that everyone loves each other, you know, experiences, joy by connecting with everyone in the system, you know, but it is. Is that consenting to it's that awareness of, and then, you know, hopefully we're being, we're being supportive to our partners of their growth of their exploration outside of our relationship. Yeah. Even if we don't happen to love the people they're exploring with, Keely: and I think what it comes down to, and if you go back to the original question of whether a partner should date the other partners, friends, Is looking at making sure, having open communication with both peaceful, both your partner and your friends and navigating, just having the communication. Yeah, Melisa: I think that's so key. And the thing to keep in mind is it will change the dynamic. That may be positive that may use being not feel so good. I don't know what will happen. It's different for every situation. But I would approach that, like when I'm talking to monogamous people who want to try non-monogamy, there's not a, like, let's try this out and then if it doesn't work, we're going to go back to where we. This is now an evolution of the system and of the relationship. So even by posing those questions and having an open conversation, it's shifting the energy, you know, in a different direction. So that's something to be aware of. It's not this like, I think because I I've heard people kind of avoid going into deeper conversation about like, well, what could happen? What might come up for you? What might come up for me? How do we want to handle this? And they avoid it by just being like, well, we're so close. We got this, you know, and then are just horrified when something goes wrong and there's no agreements and there's no intentionality. And then there's so much hurt because it's like, but we were so strong, you know um, have the supportive things that you need, like conversation, communication decisions around how you want to handle the dual relationships that are now happening. You've got a friend now who's a metamor, which is, that's a new situation. Yeah. Keely: And, you know, as you're saying this, also thinking about relationships, that part of being human as an individual and within relationships is growth. And things are going to change. Yeah. So again, yes. If a couple decides to open up their relationship sexually an intimacy wise, romantic wise, but even the couples that don't. There's going to be growth and change and they don't get to escape it and friendships uh, children of course. I mean our relationships with our children from elementary school to high school, to college and beyond they go to college as adults, like the adult relationships with children, our adult relationship with our parents our, relatives, this is always changing. There's always growth. And so that's one of the things when we think about red flags in relationship, or one of the things that really are blocks in relationships are the assumptions. And, I get really curious when the word stable comes up, when people are like, oh, well I have it. I just want a stable relationship. Or I just want a stable job. It's like, what does stable mean? Because I think sometimes stable is this idea that it's always going to be the same or it's always there in the same way. Yeah. Yeah. And it's, there's no such thing. Like I tell him, and this is a little dramatic, but it helps me. It may not help other people, but when people are like, well, like I'm worried to change jobs because my job is so stable. I'm like, there's no gap. There's what is a stable job? Oh, well, you know, it's consistent. What does that mean? There is no guarantee that any job, anything is going to exist for a certain amount of years. I Melisa: hope that the pandemic and this situation, the world right now is like really showing people that I really hope we're getting that idea. Keely: So if we are treating and like Prentice Hemphill says this, and we might've kind of quoted this in another episode, but this idea of community and relationships being a breeding entity. And so there's constant growth and change. And like, you know, like our skin, I'm not biologist, but like the example, like our skin is, you know, our skin is constantly changing, you know, like new cells, Melisa: I've always thought by growing new ones all the time. Keely: Yes. That's what relationships are too. We're shedding things. We're creating new. It's almost spring time. Perfect time to start shedding, you know, the winter skin. And so that's the place to take this question. To kind of wrap it up and this will probably create more questions, honestly, is really dive into this. Like, like you said, it's like notice how the question makes you feel. If you're confronted, if you're a person with this dynamic of being asked about a friend being a metamour. How does it make you feel, notice your body, what narrative is coming up for you and your head around that? What are, I think one of the phrases is like the assumption of like, well, that's just not okay. Anyone would know that's not okay if we start saying. Like the social norm, that's where we really get into like cis hetero monogamous activity. Melisa: And then we're we're by doing that really shaming people who heard that question and went, oh my God. Yes, yes, yes, yes. This is what I want because it's valid. Every relationship style is valid. Just do it ethically with consent and discussion. Keely: And that's and to be ethical and consent. There has to be all the information. So you have to be communicating with both people. All people involved has to be communicated with, which then, so that's the answer to the question, but it's not a simple answer because then you have just like any relationship because it's ever growing, ever changing is consistently checking in with ourselves and then having regular check-ins with our friend, having regular check ins with the partner. You know, or in that case, if the relationship does, if all three people decide or maybe our friend decides to continue the relationship, even if the primary person that asks the question, doesn't want the friend. Right. We can't control it. So then it's like, what do you do from that point? If your partner chooses. To bring on a metamour that we don't want Melisa: it's for. I mean, what comes to mind is like slow yourself down and take some time to process what's happening. And I don't know where my mind goes is. Okay. That, that person who didn't want that. Really needs to be real about whether or not they can continue to be in their relationship and be supportive of their relationship, you know, their partner. Keely: And that's really, I mean, we're getting to, I think that's the really, really, really hard part. Which is, if our, one of our partners or one of the people we're in relationship with makes a decision that we don't want or don't agree with. We don't get to decide whether they do that or not. But we do get to decide whether we say what kind of relationship and if we stay in relationship with those people. Yeah. Melisa: And if possible, And I say if possible, because it may well not be, you know, I think sometimes we propose the most ideal situations, but if you make that decision, I can no longer be in this relationship. Go do your thing. I'm supporting of your decision. I guess to me, the best case scenario would be that you give your partner a chance to know that that's happening for you. Yeah, no, again, we don't want to have ultimatums, like I'm going to go or, you know, but at the same time, I'm putting myself now in the, in the. I don't know what letter we're on B partner B like wants to go date the friend. I would feel blindsided if all of a sudden someone was like, I have decided to leave the relationship. You go to like some communication about what they're feeling, what they're, the decision they're coming to. And I know I'm asking for a tall order, cause I'm asking for communication in a way that's not an ultimatum and is not controlling, but. We got a lot of work to do this human thing we do. Keely: And there's no right answer. And that's the thing of, and that's the beauty of these questions and thank you for the, you know, I'm not going to identify who asked the question of course, but like thank you for asking this really hard question. Spring more communication and discussion, but I that's, the key is, is like we can't at the end of the day, no matter what style of relationship we're in, we can't control other people. And when we go back to this idea of control manipulation, when we're slowing down, if we notice we're saying certain things or having certain actions trying to get results or trying to control the situation, that's manipulation. Yeah. Yup. And it can kind of be a fine line, the difference between a boundary and manipulation. Because if you say I can no longer be in this relationship with you because you are with my friend or you are dating my friends. That's legit. And how do you do that? Do you say that and move on or do you create ultimatums and have these drawn out drama situations? And. Bring in other people. I think that's one of the things that I see, like we talked about before for the triangulation. And so really just checking in with yourself and where you're coming from, and this is not by any means. I am definitely want to make sure I'm not saying this is easy at all. It's really hard. That's why the question is so good. So I think that's enough on that topic. Is there any, at least for me, cause I could go on and on, but Melissa, is there anything you wanted to add? No, I'll Melisa: just, I'll just reiterate or echo that. Thank you for the question. And please ask us questions, like propose these ideas. It it's. So that's how we keep learning. That's how we keep growing. Like it's so fun to get to explore like, Ooh, what do we think about that? And be challenged, you know? Keely: All right, Melissa, we get to hear your queer joy! Melisa: Oh my gosh. I just, it was one of those like, well, where the hell did that come from? So I went on a date last. Keely: Went on a date? Melisa: I'm like laughing, cause I'm like, I wasn't even active on dating profiles. Like I just had had an evening with a friend, like earlier in the middle of the week, last week. And seriously, it was like, yeah, I'm really not dating. I'm like, wait, what just happened? So, yeah. And for me, this was the most spontaneous. Connected with the person on Saturday, a couple texts throughout Saturday, I was like, okay, you want to meet up? And for me it was like, yes, because then I can just meet you in person. I can know if I'm feeling anything before. I like get to know you too much and blow more than Saturday, which was spent in anticipation. Go me like spontaneous, my solo date turned into a duo date, which turns out that's actually a really fun too. Keely: Yay. Well, that's awesome. I love that queer joy. My queer joy is a little nuanced. I feel like it really does play into our question though, which is hanging out and exploring. Friendship that looks different than a friendship, but is not a romantic or sexual relationship. And maybe we'll even have, I mean, I feel like this is the beginning of another episode, which may have an internet, but queer platonic relationship or the idea. And I know some people hate that term, whatever, but I, the dynamic hanging out with an ex and really exploring this connection that isn't sexual. But we still really hang out and we're so close in a lot of ways and exploring this in-between. Like exploring what all these different relationships and connections can look like and be like, and really what I find this relationship is giving me the opportunity. This friendship is giving me the opportunity to check in with myself, look at old patterns and be like, does this feel good? Does this not feel good? Clear communication, because we, you know, we do know each other really well. And so let's step into this and see what happens. So that's the clear joy. And along with my photo shoot, I mean, my spirit. Yes. Yes. I got to queer joy in the sense that it was like a queer photographer with my queer assistant. But in just gender bending outfits, like trying on different energies. So I love that whole hell a lot of fun. So I can't wait to see the results. Well, thanks again, Melissa. Thank you everyone for listening today. And I hope you all have a clear and joyful week. Thanks for listening to Queer Relationships, Queer Joy. A podcast by the Connective Therapy Collective. Hosted by Kelly C Helmick and Melissa DeSegiurant. With the audio edited and produced by me, Cardinal Marking. Intro music is by Bad Snacks. Outro music by Victoria Instrumental. If this episode made you smile or think, tell us about it. If you hated it, tell us about that. Review us on iTunes or Spotify. Yes, you can review on Spotify now. Or send us an email at info at Connective Therapy Collective dot com. For information on our workshops and for more queer joy, visit our website at Connective Therapy Collective dot com. Love ya. Bye