Oh haai! (I do totally think I'm hilarious for making a meme slash recent news incident namecheck greeting that only South Africans will understand. Now you know: I'm a dork.)
So I read this blog post today, and it really resonated for me. Most obviously due to a recent *situation*, on which more later, but also because it tends to be a rule with many poly/kinky people: don't stick your dick in crazy.
Let's start with a spot of sexism deconstruction. The wording of this irritates me. Of course, it could apply in m/m relationships, and I do know some girls with dicks too. But in general this phrasing implies both that it's men who need rules of this nature (because somehow they can't recognise destructive behaviour and/or wouldn't care if they can dip their wicks?), and that it's women who are crazy. Since accusing women of hysteria, craziness, mental instability etc has looooong been a thoroughly overused tool for misogyny of all hues, that kind of pisses me off.
So let's pretend I've come up with a similarly catchy and yet far less sexist and annoying phrase that will catch on any day now. I haven't, yet, but hey. The point behind it is worth examining.
Now, of the poly people I know, and the kinky people I've talked about this with, this is a fairly universal relationship 'rule', as well as a personal rule. However, it is usually further defined for clarity. Most common is to break it down to: don't get emotionally and/or physically involved with, or play with, someone who has serious mental health issues and is unwilling to seek treatment and/or acknowledge those issues. That last bit is key. Many people I have had relationships with or am in relationships with have suffered from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and various other mental health issues. Many of my friends are in the same position. With very few exceptions, all have sought help and treatment, and are open with those to whom it is important about their issues.
It can be very hard to be involved with a person who has mental health problems. It can be tiring, challenging, and frustrating. It involves a great deal of patience, empathy and learning. And when you have multiple partners, those resources may already be in short supply. If you have multiple partners and more than one of them has problems, it can *really* leave you short of spoons. I have no issue with someone choosing to exit a relationship with a partner who is undergoing treatment for mental health issues, as long as they do it with honesty and kindness. If you do not feel able to provide the support and love needed by your partner, or feel that they are not able to meet your needs (and have discussed that with them), then by all means, take the honest route and scale back the relationship.
I don't believe in veto. Having a veto is simply not a sensible way to cultivate multiple honest, caring relationships, as far as I'm concerned. However, the other day, I found myself yelling 'veto, veto' about someone my partner had not even expressed romantic interest in. (Yeah, this is the *situation*.)
They had been introduced by a mutual friend, who said that this person was interested in the kinky side of things, and wanted to know more. As the boyfriend is a thoughtful, experienced and responsible ambassador for kink, the friend suggested he would be a good dinner companion. And he had a perfectly lovely conversation, I think, with this new person.
And then when he told me about the dinner the next morning he mentioned I might know this person - our city being small - and said a name. That's when I yelled 'veto'. I took it back, of course, but I also repeated that I did not want this person anywhere near me or my family, nor did I want her to know that I was associated with our mutual friend or the kink world, nor did I even, truly, want our friend to ever see her again.
Of course, I can't control what boyfriend chooses to do. Although I know he will respect that I don't want him to mention me and I will never be around if he chooses to see her again for any reason. I also can't control who our friend chooses to be friends with, or what she discloses to them.
Why, you may ask, is this blog post so damn long? Or, why did you freak out and yell veto? Well, in my experience, this person is exactly the kind of crazy I do not want be within 500m of. The kind of crazy that has created worlds of hurt for other friends and acquaintances of mine. The kind of crazy that makes false accusations, and spreads rumours and will use private knowledge about a person to hurt them, for no particular reason other than paranoia and a victim complex, fuelled by what seem to be some very serious mental health issues.
Now here's the thing. I have no idea if this person has sought treatment, or fulfilled any of the acknowledgement/understanding/honesty criteria that I would expect when engaging with someone with mental health problems. In my experience, that was not the case, but things may have changed since I disengaged from any contact with her. Mutual acquaintances say no, but they may be wrong.
And so I wrung my hands for a few days. Because I hate to be unfair. And I particularly hate to be unfair to people who might actually be trying to turn their life around. Or have turned their lives around. But I look at the history of this person and all I can think is: wow, it would take years of treatment for her to be strong enough to enter into the kink lifestyle without doing serious damage to herself or others. And I don't believe she has disclosed that to the people she is engaging with about this. Which makes all my trust issues jump up and yell 'veto'.
So, yeah. I do believe you can have wonderful, fulfilling relationships with people who struggle with mental health problems. And I do believe that people with issues are more than their issue, and that they have, often, learned wonderful tools for dealing with their problems that benefit them and the relationship and you, greatly. And I do believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. But there are times when the 'crazy' is patent. And there are also times when past experiences are triggers, and you have to be honest about those. If you tend to have a poly network, like I do, and practice kitchen sink poly, like I do, and have partners who are kinky and try to be responsible, honest kinksters, like I do, then you need to talk about people who make you yell veto. And you need to be heard.