There was a woman in her sixties who I met in my level one. She was an intern and I felt comforted around her. We talked when I got home and she wanted me to be one of her lovers. Poly-amoury was very new and puzzling to me, since I could not imagine women wanting their boyfriends to have sex with multiple women. Or this woman's boyfriend, also an intern, wanting her to have sex with me. But I felt safe with her in the workshop. And we decided to be lovers a month later, breaking her agreement not to have sex with me for four months. I have never lied to a lover or friend and only very rarely to anyone so I felt a bit uncomfortable about her lying. However, I was doing sessions with Peter Sandhill at the time and he was talking about his sexual interest in me so it seemed like it could not be that bad. Hearing team-members wrestle with their agreements around our relationship multiple times has left me commenting: "Just so you know, not all the facilitators pay as much attention to agreements as you are now, without going into details. This has not led to any other interns wanting to break agreements.
As the time of our sexual meeting grew closer I felt more and more nervous. But I did not know why. I knew that I felt very attracted to her at the workshops. Yet I did not feel comfortable now. What could it be? I wondered if it was her boyfriend, who I also talked with on the phone. He was very fatalistic and unhappy, but did not seem bothered by his own pain. Was that it? Was it the open relationship? The unknown? I did not know. I just found myself in a corner, panicking, because I could not "see" the threat, but my emotions revealed alarm. I did not want to reject her and have her take it personally, but I did not want to have sex any more. I could not say what it was because I did not know. And I felt scared to realize that I did not know what I did not know - or know how to find out?
Question: What does one do when one's emotions of "safety" diverge from one's "thoughts" about safety. My thoughts told me "You should feel safe." The checklist I was using at the time confirmed this:
1) She would not physically violate me.
2) She did not shame my lust or my feelings.
3) Body movement of any kind was good for the health of the body over being sedentary.
4) I was lonely and she was willing to be with me.
5) I knew I needed experience to grow and she was offering it sexually, verbally and emotionally.
6) I wanted excitement and this was more exciting than not having a lover at all.
7) I wanted to be kind to her and she would feel cared about by my interest.
8) Was I breaking any agreements or principles to do this? No.
This was my entire check-list. It's what I created on my own. Based on this check-list the interaction was a "yes" on all points. Yet looking at the interaction now, I would side with my emotions, if only so as not to put her in shame and fear due to secrecy. When someone has a secret they wonder "would I be accepted/loved/respected if my secret were known?" Sex is not worth that kind of isolation and the emotional isolation that comes for so many when they refuse sex and the emotions are also withdrawn is something we need to learn about and heal with the 1% of the population that cares enough about these things to build a life around honoring them, or by broadening the teachings in our schools so this number jumps to 10-95% of the population.
Concern: I would now say that I sensed several scary things about this: 1) The unknown. 2) The way my early childhood attachment disorder would likely play out in an open relationship. 3) The fact that I'm not good at and don't normally ever keep secrets. In fact I told Peter Sandhill about this experience, since he was my therapist at this point in 1993. I think that it dishonors the feminine in men and women to suggest that it is optimal, healthy or normal to simply have a safe-physical-sex conversation and couple in a context of so much unspoken assumptions and unexplored probability fields. Clearly many Americans have early childhood attachment trauma, both men and women. This can make open relationships extremely traumatizing when there is no template for a secure attachment established that might be the basis for open relationship. Yet as a 28 year old American male, despite choosing to abstain from sex for most of my life, I have heard from most men and women that "men want to have as much sex as possible."
I chose not to have sex with this intern, which she later agreed was a good idea. I think that workshop participants need to read a chapter about the influence and attractiveness of a given role, separate from the person out of that role, and also understand how poly dynamics exist in a probability field in which it is terrible for 1/3rd of the population and here's why... It's been 40 years. Why is no one writing the book for all HAI graduates that covers this kind of thing?