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85. Embracing Your Sluthood and Geeking Out About Relationship Anarchy with Brian Gibney

Welcome to Modern Anarchy, the podcast featuring real conversations with conscious objectors to the status quo. I'm your host, Nicole. On today's episode, we have surrogate partner and intimacy coach, Brian Gibney. Join us for a conversation all about fully embracing your slothhood through relationship andarchy. Together, we talk about reinventing yourself with radical vulnerability, waving your freak flag, and finding security in the gift that you are in relationships. This conversation with Brian was really powerful.

I appreciate all the ways that Brian was so real and vulnerable about how he's fucked up and how he's made mistakes in the past and how he can take ownership for that and not be ashamed to say that. We're all on journeys learning how to do this. There is ownership in recognizing that we have messed up on this journey to getting to where we are at now with accepting and embracing and celebrating the proud sluts that we are for having sexuality be such an important part of our lives.

And like Brian said during our conversation, embracing your slothhood can be really scary. When you're out there and you fall in love like I did with a wonderful and amazing monogamous human, you might ask yourself, just like I did, could I fit in that paradigm? Could I be okay with letting go of this aspect of myself and stepping into a different type of relational dynamic?

And the reality is, I couldn't. Okay, stay tuned for next week's episode to hear me struggle with this exact dichotomy. And like Brian said, in his relationships, that is so hard, okay? And I have so much sympathy for myself and for all of you out there that might be going through that same journey of feeling like asking for nonmonogamy and embracing your slothhood is just too much in the world.

But I just want to promise to you that it's not too much in this world. And there are many people out there who are going to love you specifically for that. And I am one of those people that is out there rooting for you and saying that this part of yourself that you are craving and longing to explore and to have in your life is valid and important, okay? And be brave in that.

I know it's scary and myself included, but we deserve to have all the experiences that we dream of having in life and we only get one shot at this. Yeah, here we get all passionate over here, but it's hard. It's really hard. And so I have so much sympathy for the journey that is learning to embrace your slothhood because it is Brian's journey. It is my journey and it might also be your journey, dear listener. And from what I know from relational cultural theory is that we are all longing for connection. And there comes a point at which certain parts of ourselves might actually cause a disconnect with that relationship.

And we have to make a crucial decision at that point. And that is, do we bring that part of ourselves into the light, into the relationship and deal with the potential disconnection that could come up with that? Or do we damp it down and try to ignore it and stuff it away and try to hide it? What relational cultural theory says is when we do that, we start to feel ashamed. We start to feel guilt and all of those pieces are what causes psychological problems.

And that is applied across the board outside of non-monogamy or whatnot. I'll invite you to start thinking about that. What parts of yourself do you feel like you can't say to the other people in your world? And for me, like Brian, it was definitely being a sludge, embracing non-monogamy and having my sexuality be a need in my life. And so I just really appreciate you, Brian, for coming onto this space and being vulnerable about your own journey in this. Because in many ways, I see myself in your journey and I'm sure so many dear listeners do too.

So thank you for that and thank you for all of the wonderful work that you are doing in this world to bring about this large paradigm shift. It's exciting to know that there are other people out there with the same value systems and that equally I'm not alone in this, right? It's scary and we can all lean into that abundance mindset knowing that there are other relationship anarchists out there. And there are other people that are being just as intentional about their relationships even if they don't use that label. And y'all, we've created a space for all of us together here.

So I hope you enjoy today's episode and tune in. How would you introduce yourself first before we get into all the personal details? Yeah. So Brian Gibney, he, him, and I am a surrogate partner, intimacy coach, educator and advocate. Great, great, great. And I know we had one of your companions on recently talking about surrogate partnerships. So we have a little bit of knowledge of what that is.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Could you tell me what it means for you? Oh, I give a lot of talks to clinicians about what surrogate partner therapy is. It's a very academic way that I explain it. I mean, I was trained as a molecular biologist and a microbiologist like I have all the schooling.

I can do the like ivory tower academic talk. Yeah. But what it means for me, this is a lived experience of a paradigm shift. This is us being very intentional about how we do relationships.

And in recognition of how we are taught to do record relationships and how unhealthy that was. Yes. So is that something that you might have personal experience with that kind of brought you into the field? Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

The whole, the whole wounded healer thing. Yeah. I had to figure this shit out myself.

Yeah. And it's taken me 30 years to get here. I'm still a work in progress, but I believe fear. Like I'm very passionate about this work because I think if I had been exposed to concepts that I now teach clients when I was even in my teens, my life would have been very, very good. Yeah. And I'm so excited to dive into all of those concepts with you today. Yeah.

Yeah. If you're willing, could you tell me your journey? Where does it start? When does it this story begin of the last 30 years for you of processing all this and growing? Yeah. So we can start at a place in my life that was a very local.

That's not fair. There were very distant poles because when I hit puberty, I was like 12 years old, I discovered my sexuality and I was like, wow, this is awesome. I remember just like having this realization like in my body, I'm a sexual being now and like let's do this. But also at the same time, historically, I had a very hard time socializing. I was a very shy child. The group of friends that I had were not very healthy and right around that time was when they would start to beat me.

I was abused a lot as a kid by my social group. Sometimes geeks are the worst, right? Like if they're getting bullied, everything rolls downhill and I was at the bottom of the packing order. And I was told that it was all in good fun and I just didn't need to take it seriously. So that was one of the really early lessons that I learned about somatic awareness, which was the feeling that you have in your body is actually wrong.

You need to ignore that and go along with it for other people so you can fit in with the group. So that's part of the lesson that I've learned, had to unlearn over the past 30 years. But parallel courses, while that was happening, I was also discovering my sexuality and discovering my power and my sexuality, which was like a really, really cool thing. You know, two sides of the coin, I was exploring my sexuality in a very closed system in a bubble. Like I discovered my parents' joy of sex book.

I read that thing cover to cover like 18 times. But I did never do that with peers. So I was actually very removed from a lot of the bullshit that people have in their formative years when they're discovering about relationships and sexualities. But I also was doing it all alone and felt very, very alone. By the time I was, I guess, a freshman in high school, I discovered that what my friends were doing was just not right. It didn't feel good. And I separated myself from them.

I didn't take the next leap of saying, well, this is unhealthy. Therefore, there must be more healthy relationships. I was just like, you know what, I'm going to be antisocial. Maybe I'm meant to be alone. So throughout my mid-teen years, I really didn't have any friends. I didn't have any social group.

I dated very, very late because at the same time, I'm also discovering the germ of non-monogamous feelings. And everything that I learned in popular culture was that's unhealthy. That's cheating. You're going to hurt someone. And I was like, you know what, in order to save other people, I'm going to distance myself from dating. So here I was very sexually aware and also distancing myself from like relationships very lonely without any friends. And I didn't see a way out of it. Ironically, at that time, people would also come up to me and they would ask me questions about sexuality and relationships.

Like, I would be eating lunch alone on the stairs and people would be like, so my boyfriend and I were thinking about having sex for the first time. What do you think about that? I'm like, are you?

Why are you asking the guy that's sitting on the stairs? So that was just something that was part of my experience. When I went to college, I made a decision to kind of reinvent myself. And I did that with vulnerability, with radical painful vulnerability of like, okay, so I have kept myself closeted for the past many years of my life.

I'm not making any connections and I want to make connections. I don't want the rest of my life to look like this. So I'm just going to put myself out there and I'm going to wave my freak flag.

And whatever way my like, lily white privileged, you know, male, sister, male could do, right? Like I had my freak flag was pretty tame compared to what my like, my daughter is doing now and other people. But anyway, how I decided to get over my machinists and kind of give myself a head start and vulnerability was I modeled new for our classes. And I was like, I am here naked in front of a room full of people. And they're looking at me and it's okay and it's natural. And the crazy thing that happened was like, I was looking at the student artist drawings and realizing, wow, like that guy drew me with really big arms or like I was like, like hung down to my knee. And I was like, I know objectively that I'm not like that.

So whatever they are drawing me as is filtered through their own personal experience. And there, that was like a seed crystal getting dropped in a super saturated solution. I was like, whoa, something's going on here. And that really started me geeking out about culture and sexuality and awareness in a way that like, I was too, too sad and lonely and self absorbed in my earlier years to be able to do that to be able to understand like this is a systemic issue. It's not a me thing it's a it's an everybody else.

Or is it us thing. So yeah, that that really start me on started me on the path of questioning everything about relationships and sexuality. But still, I was raised in a world where I was taught okay well if you're smart you have to do something with that and that meant being a lawyer or a doctor or someone involved in the finances. So when I went on to get my PhD in microbiology I was like okay like I'm walking the walk I'm doing the path.

Focus diligence, use that brain and graduate schools, like some of the worst time of my life. Because I was with a bunch of people that were very not very much not embodied. They didn't know how to communicate about emotions and relationships. And I was like, wow, like, I love the puzzle that is science and also the culture drives me crazy. After about a seven year slog of trying to fight my way through the culture and being not really good about playing by the rules. I decided to throw on the towel. I was like, you know what I published I have gotten halfway through writing my dissertation. I'm just, but I just don't want to do this.

Everybody thought it was crazy. Sure. Yeah. But one of the most amazing things happened to me with me. When I was going back to my graduate school to kind of close up shop and do all the things I was saying with a friend who was a massage therapist or a key killer and it turns out also a pagan priestess. And she turned to me during dinner one night and she said, okay, I need to say something to you. And it may not make any sense right now, but I feel like if I don't say it, a bunch of stuff is going to happen to you and you're not going to understand why.

So I just want to give you words. So you understand, right? Yeah. Okay, what's going on?

Yeah. And like, she said, you are a sacred whore. You are meant to heal people with your sexuality. That's who you are. You might choose to do other things with your life, but also you're going to find that people respond to that.

Whether you like put it out there or not. And as she's having this conversation, I'm like thinking back to sitting on the steps in my high school with people coming up to me and seeing them, you know, their first sexual experiences and stuff like that. I'm like, fuck, yeah, not like this has continually happened throughout my life.

And she's just like, you know what, it is a long is a long lineage of people. It is something that is not taught about because of Christianity because of how we view sexuality and shame. But know that it's a real thing know that it is a it is a divinely inspired thing in that there was a time in a place where it was honored and respected. And I was just like, cool. Yeah, that's scary.

That's what I thought. At that point in time, I like I didn't even have language around polyamory and non monogamy. Wow. Yeah.

And what alone to like label myself as a horror. I'm that was that was intimidating. Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. Those those those two things I could not marry my head. So the better part of the last 15 years since that conversation has been figuring out what that means.

Yeah. You know, exploring polyamory and non monogamy and like, yes, they are two different but related things. What does that mean to me? What does it mean for me to occupy space in this world as a sacred whore, but also someone who's super geeky. Like, I'm a little room. I'm pretty well, but also like, yeah, I'm with you.

I'm with you. What does it mean in my my personal relationships to have this thing be a truth about me that, you know, from a very young age I told I was telling myself, oh, well, this is going to be damaging to my relationships to find other people to find my tribe that are like, Oh, this is exactly what we want. This is exactly how we want to relate to. Whoa, that blew my mind. But also, fucking up as I did it a lot. Right. Like, I didn't, I didn't have a good roadmap for how to do non monogamy well.

We barely do monogamy well in our society. Right. And, and it's a whole different rule rule book. So I had to like, I read a lot. The ethical slot was like, informative for me, like, and figuring out through my relationships. But man, I learned a lot about relationships, kind of by dating multiple people at the same time. by lighting a lot of those relationships on fire and watching them burn and being like shit. How did that happen?

Yeah, how did that happen? You know, I have a lot of regret for how I did relationships earlier on because I just didn't know any better. Great, you're doing your best. Yeah, so all of that is happening kind of in the flow of my life and meanwhile in my career, I have stopped doing research science. I was a professional jeweler for about 10 years.

I was a professional circus performer for about seven years. Cool, cool. And it's starting slowly but surely kind of letting my freak flag fly a little bit more.

I love it, I love it. And as this is happening, one of my one of my lovers and who's also a therapist said, you know, you might want to like look into surrogate partner therapy. So that thing that was like in my back pocket that sacred whore that like I really was too scared to look at as sacred whore all of a sudden had like a clinical framework, which might my academic geeky brain was like, Oh, what is that? I can, I can orient myself to that.

So I went to the training in California. And it was like all of a sudden, like my, my life's worth of experience was just like, Oh, that absolutely makes sense. There was nothing that felt new there. It was a clinical framework to hang things on. But like, I was like, I have been doing this stuff my entire life and I just didn't have anything to call it. But now I have a way to, to, to structure and have good healthy boundaries around it and to get paid to do it.

What? So I've been doing surrogate partner therapy now for the past six years. And trying to navigate all what that means because there's not a whole lot of room in the world for male, cis at male surrogate partners. There's been a lot of educating therapists about it. There's a lot of creating a more permissive community about it. And just doing it, doing a lot of advocacy work.

So myself and other people can do the work and the people that need help can get help. Yeah. Yeah.

So that's a really long, who I explained how I got here. Yeah, but it's so, it's so important, right? Because it, it draws the picture of the alignment that moment when you felt like everything came into being you're like, Wow, like this is, this is my path. This is my calling, my mission, my existence here.

So I mean, I think it makes a ton of sense given your background. I mean, my heart goes out to you in the younger age of having your closest connections, you know, your community, your people, your friends, the people that you're supposed to be able to trust to be vulnerable with fine love. Beating you. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, I, like, I realized that my younger self is just not happy at all.

One of my, my first relationships. She said, you know, when you hit, hit rock bottom, there are only two ways you can go up and sideways. And I was like, if I have a choice between going up and sideways, I think I'll choose up because sideways is just more the same shit.

But up meant trying a lot of new scary things. And I was like, okay, here, here we go. Let's see what happens. Mm hmm.

And I think you hit on another big thing, right? Like when you're trying to embark on non monogamy, there's no models. There's no like, Oh, I can watch this TV show, read this book and see like some sort of idea of a storyline of how you live out this life. I mean, yeah, there's the ethical slug other books, but like the praxis of it, right? Those ideas applied in real time. Where, where are we finding that?

Where did you find that, you know? Right. So, I think any relationship can work without that.

Certainly not multiple relationships. But I had to get more comfortable with, with my slot. I had to be okay with saying like my sexuality is a really important part of my life and I want to be around people that enjoy and embrace it.

That's, that's not a small ask for, for many people. My desire for community and connectedness is a really big part of my life and, and it goes beyond, way beyond the kind of nuclear family model that most of our society lives in. And even before I had words for non monogamy, I had, and I was exploring, like kind of coming out of my shell. I was, I was learning a non monogamous life. I had, even though I was sexually monogamous, I had very intimate friendships. You know, so we were very, like we would exchange, I love you, as we would have sleepovers, we would do all these things that felt very, very like, like, we're a big family.

And I didn't understand how weird that was. Initially, right, because like, you know, I was in my own little echo chamber that I created. And so until much later when people were like, wow, you did that, like, you would have naked massage parties over at your college dorm room and like, you know, that was okay.

Yeah, that was okay. Because even back then, like even when I was 1920, you know, nudity didn't necessarily mean sexuality or like being sexual. But I guess I didn't appreciate that at the time. Mm hmm. That you were already, you know, leading a new movement, leading a new energy, leading a new path with connection with our bodies that doesn't have to be sexual.

I mean, and that's the whole thing about kink too, right, is like you can engage in kink in a way that's erotic and not necessarily sexual, like there's space to do these things, you know, in whatever capacity feels right for people and you found that capacity. But it also sounds like maybe you struggled. I mean, you said this right, struggled with embracing your sloth hood. What was coming up for you when you were struggling to embrace that aspect of yourself? Well, I think I think some of it was, I was not yet ready to fully incorporate my sexuality into my relationships, like my expansive sexuality.

Yeah. So, you know, my my early relationships were all monogamous relationships, which was which was really like now that I look back on it and direct conflict to how I was having my non romantic relationships. Again, if I would go back, I would just like smack younger me outside the head and be like, dude, I mean, what's going on here. I'm asking I'm listening because I am your younger you know what I mean, and we all are so tell me.

Yeah. So I just at that point in my life, I was just discovering what it felt like to be loved. And, and I didn't want to risk. I didn't want to risk it for being too much. So I diluted myself. I kept myself safe and palatable so I could stay in relationships and like spoiler doing that, being that dishonest with yourself and the people in relationships with is not is not good relationship. That sours everything. I learned how to love myself I learned how to be big and understood that like people are just going to have to get good with my bigness. Oh yeah, I mean it sounds like, you know, it's cheesy, but like the idea of like a star trying to fit into like, you know, a square peg, you know, it's like it's not going to work unless you shave off parts of yourself.

Yeah. And that and then like that ultimately came out and, and not healthy ways like my, even though I was outwardly very accepting of partners explorations and non monogamy I didn't ever ever feel safe enough to be outwardly non monogamous myself. So what did I do. I had non ethical non monogamy so I cheated on people. And I ended up parsing myself out in different parts and this is this is where I get to be like this and this is where I get to be like this but the two never met.

Fuck that. Like that was for me and that was awful for the people that I was in relationships with. Yeah, it really hit for me when you were saying that like, this was the beginning of feeling loved right so if that's the first time we start to feel that full love and acceptance. It's scary and we don't want to step out of losing that and if non monogamy meant losing love and connection. That's terrifying. Why would you you know I mean but then you sit in this complex dilemma of exactly what you're saying we're like you're feeling pulled and you can't show up as your whole self and then it inherently rots the relationships that you're in because you're not flowing in your own vitality you know what I mean and.

tough place to sit in. Yeah, and also to have that feeling inside of the matrix of all the other stories that I was telling myself, like, you know, being cis-het white privileged guy, I don't want to be that guy who just takes in relationships. I don't want to, you know, I don't want to be the douchebag who is, you know, uncaring of people. So like, what does that mean about me? Like, what? Like, if I want too much, am I that guy?

What is too much? That was all really, really confusing. Absolutely. I mean, I think that's an important thing to recognize, right? Of like, you see your own privilege and then at the same time being conscious of the ways that comes into relationships, but at the same time, like, that almost restricting yourself, right?

Because now it sounds like maybe non-monogamy felt like taking too much because it was too much of cake, you know, like, I don't know if I can do that, but that's where you thrive. That's where you feel full. That's where you feel the most alive. Yeah, so ultimately giving myself permission to, to both take and receive that was huge for me. And to say like, this is, this is not me being an agent of patriarchal culture.

This is just me being myself. And that's okay. It's more than okay. It's beautiful because I think that if you're doing it with the consciousness of that and showing up in ways that are bringing healing to people, it's more than okay. It's actually bringing out more love into the community, right?

More aliveness, more zest for all the things once you start following it. I love that. I love that. I love, I love that, you know, the seed of juiciness in me sparks something in a partner or in a friend. And that trickles out into other parts of their life. I mean, I think, I think we need more of that. I think, I think the things that make us feel so alone and cut off in the way we live our lives now may not necessarily be sexuality or polyamory, but like the connectedness, the, the inspiration that we draw from each other like that. And that, that helps make us feel alive. You know, we're humans are pack animals.

We are meant to be in tribe and community. At best, we're kind of play acting that right now. You know, at worst, we're completely just ignoring it. We are, we are tired from work. We're tired from family, you know, been taught with the Protestant work ethic that we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. And if we don't do it alone, then, you know, there's something wrong with us.

All those messages are just so deeply on healthy. So like, fuck that. I want to, I want to live a different model.

Yes, yes. And I'm always stressing that like that model of community and connection should happen, whether you're polyamorous or non or monogamous, like that should be happening regardless. I think this is a pressure on all of our ways of relating of, you know, your romantic partner being the center of your world and dare if you venture off to intimacy with other people, even if it's not sexual, strictly emotional intimacy, that's, that's threatening to the, the dyad structure, right? And I think that whole sense of community is lost when we shape our world around just that dyad. And I think that's how we see a lot of relationships struggle because there's too much pressure that once was filled in a community, put into just a dyad relationship. No relationship can meet all those needs.

Just hands down, no relationship, you know? No. So yeah, I'm, I'm glad to see that like how I'm living my life right now is kind of inspiring that in other people and then like helping them, you know, realized that like resourcing is, is part of being human that like seeking out other connections is great.

Yeah. I think I've definitely struggled with that same thought, you know, like of, is it selfish to get everything I want eventually, you know, like, Okay, so, so now I'm gonna flip it a little bit because like we have different life experiences. You are, you're socialized as, you know, a woman, a woman.

And, and, and working with mostly female clients, one of the biggest struggles for them is asking for what they want of taking up space. That's a thing. And I, and it's not just folks that work with me as a surrogate partner who are really struggling with their relationships and sexuality. This is like, this is, this is the foundation of what it is to be a woman in our culture.

Yep. Be small. Fit other people's needs.

People please. Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. If you're lucky, you get to experience sexuality in reference to someone else's sexuality. And maybe that'll be good enough for you. So good luck with that. Mm hmm. Yeah.

And then it gets even scarier. I think for me, I keep navigating a path with at least one person in my life that wants more of a monogamous relationship and trying to like live in that space of like meeting each other's needs. I mean, I'm monogamous, poly partnerships have worked, you know, and do work in the past. Oh, yeah. But who is this an interesting dilemma for me? And I'm like, feel like I'm resonating with a lot of what you're saying of like that feeling of selfishness to pursue it, feeling like, you know, you have to cut off parts of your own vitality to try and fit into other people's boxes and like, Oh man, do I feel that sense of self shift when I like, I'm in more of my like free space to do what feels calling to me compared to like trying to fit into someone's ideas of what they want in partnership. Yeah.

Yeah. And you know, it's just just had this conversation with one of my partners of like, what does it mean to what does it mean to be in a relationship where there are known but static rules, right? Where we have safety in relationship because we say, well, if you just do X, Y, Z, then the relationship is going to be healthy. But like personally, I'm way too dynamic for that to happen. I love I like love personal growth. I love evolution. I love being in a flow of life. And and I don't I don't follow follow rules particularly well.

Sure. That's why you're here. Rules that don't rules that don't write rules that don't have a reason. And those rules are always subject to change.

But but the you know, the rules of how we do relationships in our popular culture are like, here's the relationship escalator. You do all these different things. And you get your happily ever after. And that's success. Right, right, right. Like the foundations of a relationship escalator. Been reading it.

Yeah. But but you know, like those fairy tales, they never have a like what happens after happily ever after. So what happens when you when you play by the rules and you achieve the goal?

Like what do you do? So for me and my relationships, I'm actually very intentionally not goal oriented, which is really disorienting for a lot of people. Like a lot of people are used to going like, what like, where's this relationship going?

That's a that's a huge question. Right. Is it OK if it's just being and not going? Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

That's scary for a lot of people. Oh, yes. I mean, it sounds very relationship anarchist.

Uh huh. If that word relates to you. Oh, very much so. It's interesting. I was just on another podcast and I and I brought up that word as a label for myself and the reaction I got from one of the hosts was like, ooh. And I got that got this like all of a sudden I was 15 again. Like, oh, wow, am I asking for too much?

Am I being that like, wow, douchey white boy? Like, oh, what is that feeling? I've said a lot of times since that since then, like thinking about it like.

Okay. Does relationship anarchy fit? Why do people react so strongly against that?

I mean, I think that from the conversations I have with people in kind of my circles, like a lot of people who play it being non-monogamous or ethically non-monogamous use relationship anarchy as a way of not having connection. That's kind of like a buy. And that's not it at all for me. Like I want to have the freedom to pursue connection. And it's usually with me very intense connection in any way that feels good. So like if you are a friend that I happen to have sex with, I actually want you to be a friend. I don't want to like have a random hookup. Nothing wrong with casual sex. I can't do casual sex. I don't do anything casually.

I'm very intentional and very intense about pretty much everything I do. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But so when I think about relationship anarchy, that way of giving myself permission to crack my relationships in a way that fits for all people, that makes sense to me. And like I said before, it's fluid.

Like what worked six months ago might not work now. I remember when I was in graduate school, sitting down at a lake, going for a swim with my yoga instructor partner and my yoga instructor is a female yoga instructor and my yoga instructor's partner, who's a chemical engineer. So like very, very like left brain, right brain. Yeah. Yeah.

I see it. We're like one of the very few times in my life, I had kind of like a bro moment with another guy. And he looked over and he's like, I can't wait to be married. And I'm like, really?

Like what about being married is so exciting? He's like, oh, well, I get to just stop. I get to, I don't have to think about it anymore. I just get to be married.

And I looked at him like, dude, that is not going to end well for you. No, no. Good luck.

Good luck. So like, so I imagine for most people that kind of work in that paradigm, that like, okay, now I just get to like, relax and be married and I don't have to do anything else. Like that's why people have so many relationship issues. And that is what I'm actively working against in my relationship. So like, I am not going to take my hands off the wheel because shit happens when that happens. So, so like, was it feel like to be active and engaged in my relationships? Yes. I mean, relationships take work.

I don't care what kind of relationship, probably monogamous, like all relationships take work. And that shouldn't be something that like scares us away from it, right? We have, we have beautiful gardens. I see, you know, the plants in your back. I have my plants over here and it takes work to keep these alive. Like we water them. We make sure they have sun. You can't just leave the plant. I mean, some maybe a snake plant, you know what I mean?

But like, for the most part, like we have to water, you know, the beautiful flowering plants, you have to water them and give them sun. You can't just leave them be like, oh, it's going to be fine. So I mean, yeah, I think it makes a lot of sense to be putting intentionality into your relationships and to recognize that it takes a lot of work, especially in non monogamous dynamic, because I think there's more variables at play to like really talk about. And I love what you said about the, this is something I've been feeling into, too, as someone who identifies as a relationship anarchist of like, I don't have like a defined sense of what my future relationship structures are going to look like, because it's always very dynamic. You know, you have one person comes in and it might shift the way that I hang out with my other relationships or I might need to create more space or, you know, invest a little bit more in here.

I mean, it's always going to be fluid depending on just the life circumstances that are around you, which is terrifying to most people. Oh, yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, so, so for me, it takes a lot of trust in my partners and my relationships to do this, right?

Yes. Because the part of me that is going is saying like, well, what happens if you don't like what I say, am I going to end up alone? I need to silence that part of me and be like, you know what, like if they decide to be with you, they will decide to be with you. But that is a, that younger me was not able to do that. It's hard. It's hard.

It's really, really hard. Oh, yeah. Yeah. To find stability in change, right? And like when we know changes are inevitable with life, let's just be very clear. But like, there's some sort of idea, I mean, and it is kind of, you know, structural of like when you're in a monogamous relationship where the goal is to die with each other, there is some sort of like game plan, you know what I mean? Like it's this, like you're here compared to a lot more fluidity in your connections. And like, that is not to say that we can't have commitments in that and we do, right? But like, oh, they're significantly more fluid to meet the needs of people. And I love the way that you reground that into, rather than being afraid of if they leave, it's like, they're here because they're choosing to be here. Yeah. Yeah. What I am is a gift to people and it has taken me a long time to realize that.

And the people that want to receive that gift, like they will be around me. Yeah. Oh, took a long time to figure that out. And dare I say that that's your relationship with yourself. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Finding that stability to know that I am worthy, I bring gifts and to know that in yourself. Yeah. Mm hmm. Yeah, I really like the word from Polysecure, right? Like this idea of like finding security in the web, in the constellation of relationships that do have different orbits, you know, common relationships that ever sort of fits into you. And like in that movement, finding security in your community, it's beautiful and very, I don't, at least for me, is something that has taken significant time to build. Mm hmm. You don't just find all these people like overnight, you know what I mean? Yeah.

And going through different iterations of that web have been interesting. Yeah. Yeah, do you want to say more?

Oh, yeah. Like I, even though I've identified as Poly and non-monogamous for a long time, a lot of people I find come to it for different reasons. Sure.

And they're not always the reasons that jive with me, which are, you know, what you were saying, like the kind of embracing the web, embracing the community. I am not a jealous person. I don't, I think I might have been jealous once at one point in time.

Like, like there was one instance where I was jealous, but it was like unfamiliar enough for me that I was like, oh, what is that? Interesting. That's not how apparently other people are wired. It takes a little bit more work for some people. So, so to be in my web and with the understanding that like I don't understand what this jealousy thing is means that other people kind of have to take care of themselves and be like, hey, I have some needs here.

They're coming out of this jealousy. Let's talk about that. Like I didn't always have non-monogamous relationships like that. Wasn't able to have honest conversations with partners about that. Part of it is because I had a blind spot. Part of it was because I'm a people pleaser and fixer. And I like to take care of that for them.

Yeah. So, so, so, you know, letting giving them the opportunity to advocate for themselves was a big thing for me. It is a big thing for me.

I'm not going to lie. It's still a thing. Sure. Sure. It is work to constantly work on those like habitual patterns and myself included rate of like people pleasing. Mm-hmm. And especially in relationships when you start navigating multiple.

I mean, if you try to meet everyone else's need and care for them without them communicating what they need, like you're going to drain yourself dry real fast, real fast. Hey, you know, I found that out. Oh, really?

Like damn. Well, yeah, if I spend my life trying to orient myself to everybody in that life, I found myself getting pulled in so many different directions. I was, I was exhausted. I was, I was constantly in conflict and I realized it wasn't in conflict with myself. It was just, I was trying to please all these disparate parts of my relationships when I really just need to be like, okay, like this is where I am. This is what I want.

How does that work out for y'all? Yeah. So then it was that, that point of turning inward to say, this is me.

This is who I am. Kind of this like take it or leave it maybe sort of energy space. Does that feel right? No, no, it's, that feels, that feels very right. And I remember having that thought of like, that's kind of the vibe that I was bringing into my relationship.

And it felt so wrong for me in the beginning. Take up space. to take up space to have trust that other people will take it and not just leave it again to trust that other people like investing in the relationship that's something they want right like I'm not being manipulative or coarse or self-interested versus selfish yeah yeah yeah yeah like I'm I can be self-interested without being selfish like selfishness is self-interest without regard to other people sure yep so self-interest is understanding that your actions have impact on other people but also saying this is this is what I need for me that took me a while to tease out yeah definitely right especially when society has told you that the only way to exist in relationship is monogamy so for you to step out of that I mean yeah it's gonna sound and feel maybe bring up some sense of guilt you know to be asking for everything that you want when when that is perfectly okay but you know society at large you know that person who you said relationship anarchy to and looked at you in that way I mean they're kind of like who are you to take up this much space and ask for what you want yeah yeah well it's really interesting so okay this is where I get to geek out about language like I I say relationship anarchy to you and it lands a certain way because you have your own relationship to that set of words I say relationship anarchy to someone off the street who isn't well versed in non monogamy they have their own preconceived notions and it's going to land very different yep for them yep neither of those are all related to what my idea of the relationship anarchy is so it's like it gets back this is like this gets back to the core of why I love doing the work that I do in certain department of therapy is like we just talk about it how we how we bridge that gap is like you say hey Brian what does a relationship anarchy mean to you or like I noticed the look on someone's face when I say relationship anarchy and I'd be like I noticed there was a reaction there what's that about what are you hearing yeah what yeah what are you hearing what are you feeling getting curious about each other's responses it takes a lot longer than just kind of like cruising through a conversation but it's so awesome because you get connection even if you disagree with someone you feel so much more connected to them right you've come closer I mean I think you're hitting on something so important is that like yeah language is constructed and our whole idea is of what language is and what words mean are based on our experience with the language right so like anarchy to someone might mean like total chaos war destruction you know so they hear that and they're like oh my god no but yeah to you or to me it means a completely different thing and I think the radical thing is that like when we take it even deeper step back that's how we all are with people right like I truly don't understand who you are Brian I'm gonna project on to you a multitude of things where something the little pieces I'm hearing I'm I'm trying to fill out in my head like a full idea of who you are based on those little things right and so when we kind of even understand that's happening in relationship where people are projecting on the words and projecting on to you all the time yeah oh yeah and I and I see that play out so much in the work that I do yeah like when I when I come into a lecture that I'm giving to therapists and I say okay so like part of me is going to show up as professional advocate Brian's part of me is going to show up as just Brian and I am going to self identify as a sex worker in a whore like you as therapists are gonna have feelings about that yes they will check those feelings what does that what does that mean and also I'm gonna talk the way that I'm talking so can you hold my whore identity and the fact that I'm articulate and academically trained in the same space that's challenging well this is my dream for myself too even on this podcast right like here I am as a fellow academic being like but yeah we talk about all of these things and like can you hold space for the duality and especially in a field of psychology which is supposed to hold space for the complexity of the human experience are still so many biases they are with sex and sexuality that people hear that word and they're like nope that can't be professional whore like nope nope nope nope right right right well and you know like a word that is being used lately for a lot of reasons around diversity is decolonization but I think but I think it is so much bigger than the color of people's skins and inclusion it is it really is dismantling the power structures that we have grown very accustomed to in our culture and talking about okay well this may work here but it isn't necessarily a rule for everything else so how do we expand all how we how we live in this world because it's not because it's not always just a power over power under model you know sometimes it can be a power with model and most people don't know how to work with that even even in relationships yeah you know even even yeah yeah yeah so in my experience with relationships both doing intimacy coaching on the outside of a relationship and being in relationships myself like most people think that relationship equity means that you get your way sometimes the other person gets their way sometimes but that's just flip-flopping of power over power under dynamic that's not actually the best way right like how how do we getting back to this being curious how do we talk to each other how do we be curious about like okay so you want this thing what is it about that thing that makes it appealing to you why do you want it like maybe there's a common thread in there that you're like oh like I'm down for that too cool like it's not it's not an either or we have to be curious about it like there's there's a spectrum okay so I'm now I'm going to like get a little geeky do it like we talk about consent in a very binary way and functionally that makes sense right there has to be a short hand of consent to keep people safe like no means no yes check got it yet but there's hope there's a lot more gray in there so in this in this like talking about curiosity talking about power over power under there is the grayness in consent is like okay what is my authentic want what is my my spontaneous desire want and what is my authentic no okay great those are the two poles but inside those two poles there's there's exploring a whole different spectrum of willingness so like I am enthusiastic and willing and also noticing that like my willingness is attached to this kind of responsive desire of like wow I am finding something through my willingness that I didn't know that I wanted before great like there's also a willingness that is like tolerating like I'm this is not something that I'm really into I'll be good with that how does that slide into enduring how many people spend time in their relationships enduring and they think that's what love is they think that's what relationships are oh well I'll just I'll just wait this out and give this up to my partner because like they deserve it they've done the same for me oh I'm gonna call bullshit on that enduring is not a great way to live and I think it's hard if you've had models of enduring that have demonstrated that's what love is right if you've had you know your early childhood experiences with parents where you didn't really have a choice at four years old you had to endure that situation because that's where you were at so now you've learned okay like love is enduring with a lot of problems right or you know my experience people pleasing and trying to save other people you know because that's this type of love that I experienced and then we go on to remodel that in all of our relationships so then you get to that relationship where you are enduring you're like yeah this is normal because this is what I've experienced for my whole life but to see that in perspective of what it could be the space that you could have of taking up all that you are and being able to give and receive and fullness and I mean sex too the same thing right like so many people with vulvas women in general just like tend to go through a lot of sex that is incredibly painful thinking well this is my gift that I give to my partner yeah and so I must endure this for them yeah yeah I feel that and it's like how do you how do you help people to see that there's more space to have pleasure to have pleasurable relationships to have all of this I mean So, so one of the things that you, you said just earlier as we're geeking out about language, saying, saying that something was normal. I'm not, I'm, I try to take normal out of my, my lexicon. I try to use familiar. Like this is, this is the set of data that I have observed in my life, but that doesn't necessarily mean normal. Sure.

Because some other people use the word natural, like capital N natural, like this is the way it is meant to be. Hmm. Really?

Is it? Who said that? Who deemed that?

Who gave you that authority? Right. Well, of course science. And science is good for a lot of things, but science is never meant to be like beyond and all in a lot of different ways. So yeah. So yeah, like so, so reframing normal to familiar and understanding that familiar has a role in our lives, but it doesn't necessarily bring us to what is best. Right. Is something to realize.

Right. Cause I mean, a lot of people are going to tell you that normal is monogamy. There's a lot of mod normative bias out in our world, right? So like a lot of people are looking to be like, that's not normal. And some people even dare say that's not natural. Well, yeah.

And then, and then the other end of the spectrum is well, non monogamy is natural capital N. Right. What? And then you say that to that, right? Right. And they absolutely. And, and we are all like having our own confirmation bias, looking at different sources of information and saying, oh, see, that's pointing, that's pointing to the conclusion that I've already made. Mm hmm.

Mm hmm. Which is why I mean, so I, my dissertation that I'm currently writing is on relationship anarchy. So that is my, it's my thing. And I mean, like you can do that sort of space in both monogamy and non monogamy. It is something that like, Andy Nordgren has talked about being like, you know, there's this duality between the two of these. And there's this third point, you know, like it's a little bit separate outside of that. And I think I always love that, like that the ideals of like creating unique relationships, stepping out of the status quo and trying to not have hierarchy between romantic, platonic, sexual. I mean, that is ideals and value systems that people can embrace, whether you're doing any of these relationship structures. And I promise it will benefit you, you know what I mean to like have that space in your connection. And I think, I think it all really boils down to like, can we be at home and our authentic wants and can we can we communicate that with our partners?

Yeah. Whether it's in non monogamy, whether it's in monogamy, because like that informs what you want to have for dinner. That informs whether or not you want to have kids together. That informs where you want to live. That informs whether or not you want to sleep with someone else.

Like how do we have these foundational skills and values in our relationship that we can build out however we want to. Yeah, I geek out about that a lot because, you know, when I work with clients, the most common thing they say is, well, like, I'm never going to meet someone like you in the wild. Like how am I ever going to find a partner who's going to be like you? And I'm like, you're not.

Spoiler alert, you're not. And the relationship is going to be different because you're with like a totally different person, but you now have the skills to figure that shit out. Yeah. And you can teach them how to do that too. And I think the difference being too is now you have like some sort of guidepost. I don't even know some sort of beacon of light, you know, that you're kind of guiding because once they have a relationship with someone who, you know, like you who meets them in the ways that we should all be met, it becomes so much clearer when other people aren't doing that. You're like, whoa, OK, I mean, I've been treated better. I've had more space held for me and I've had more intimacy and connection with other people, so I'm not going to take this crumb that you're offering me.

Yeah. I mean, so what's really cool about a certain partner therapy is that people come to me saying, well, there's something, something about my sex is broken. Like they like it's so it's so sad.

Blame it on them. And feeling feeling very broken. And, you know, I say like managing expectations. I am not here to fix what you think is broken. Like I'm here to give you some tools.

I'm here to sit in a relationship with you as you're figure figuring this out. That may or may not fix what you think is broken. Broken is so tricky, right? That gets back to normal, that gets back to natural. So as we do the work, we end up reframing what that what that broken is. But ultimately, when we're doing the work, clients come back to me and they're like, so the relationships I had in my workplace are changing now. The relationships I'm having with my family members and my siblings are changing now.

The relationships I'm having with my friends are changing now. Like, yes. Yes. Yes. Because like this is a paradigm shift. We are we are starting from the ground up how to really learn how to relate to yourself internally and how to share that with other people around you.

That's all like literally it is that simple and also really hard to do. Yes. Yes. Because you're building down years of schemas of models that have been reinforced of how to relate with people and trying to set up a new paradigm. Yeah, exactly. I mean, that takes time. That takes a lot of emotional work to sit through that. And I think one of the biggest things that I'm feeling from this conversation is like this space, deciding to sit in a abundance mindset rather than a scarcity.

Right. Of like, no one's ever going to meet me this way. No one versus like, I'm going to trust that, hey, you know, it might take some time to find that right person.

But that journey is going to be so much more meaningful and worth it to wait for that sort of connection because I know it's what I deserve. Yeah. Scarcity is so hard. I remember very vividly being in a very scarcity, scarcity mindset and feeling like I had to again, accept the crumbs. I had to conform to whatever was acceptable to other people. Yeah. Just so I had my chance of any kind of affection. Right.

That didn't that didn't feel good. But then going to say to someone who's in a scarcity mindset, oh, don't worry. Like there's there is abundance out there.

When that was said to me, I was like, fuck you. Like there I do not feel like there's abundance right now. I mean, tell you. So so the the stepping stone that I use between scarcity and abundance was comfort in being alone. Oh, yeah. And at first that looked like resignation. But I didn't let that resignation fester. I still kept a little bit of hope there.

And that that germ of hope led me into some relationships that really changed my life. Yeah. Yeah. The resignation. What was that for you? Oh, I mean, the resignation was like I there are no other people like me.

There are no people that are going to understand what I'm about. Yeah. Yeah. And it's it's painting with a broad brush saying there are no people that are like me. Like, sure, there are people that like are geeky like me. Oh, sure, there are people that enjoy hiking like me or something like that. But like the big me, like the capital, me of like, this is how I live my life.

This is how I walk through the world. I didn't feel like I had access to anybody else like that. I didn't because I didn't think they existed.

Yep. But I think what I did while I was being patient with my aloneness and having that hope was I was continuing to live life the way that I wanted to live life. And I found that there are other people that are feeling just like I felt that were like, wow, this is exactly how I want to be. And I didn't know there was someone else like that around. Like, oh, wait, there's now there's two of us.

Now there's three of us. What? What's going on? Mm hmm. Mm hmm. It's it's really cool. Yeah. And I think that's the beauty of flying your freak flag, right?

That's the language you had used, right? I mean, you start flying it and immediately you're isolating yourself by doing so because you're the one that's doing it, right? But at the same time, you're also beckoning to other people who see that flag and say, hey, I know that I know that I want to connect with that person. And then you find that.

And once you find that, oh, it feels good on a different level. Yeah. So and so another another like language thing that I like to geek out about is being picky. I've been I've been told that I was right. I've been told that I was very picky or judgy.

And the language that I have recently adopted is like. Instead of picky or judgy, I'm using disarmament. Like I am saying this is a good match for me and this is not a good match for me.

And it's interesting how that little change in rhetoric really shifts how I feel about it. Like I'm not being picky or judgy. I'm not like a spoiled child. I'm just being honest with myself and the people around me. Yes, yes, picky.

One again feeling like taking up too much space. Like I have, yeah, I'm the, yeah, exactly. I think about the picky eater kid, you know, who like won't eat what's good in front of, you know, you're just like, boy, compared to like, it's good enough.

What's your problem? Exactly. Right.

Compared to discernment, you know, in the view of yourself versus like the picky child versus the wise sage who knows more about himself to be able to make decisions. I mean, this is hitting at the point that like language is so important. And, you know, I journal every day. And so like that's part of like my practice of like seeing what language am I coming, you know, what's coming out, how am I describing my experience.

And I think it's so important to pay attention to the language that you do and have with caution. Right. Yeah.

Yeah. I mean, I'm going on a date tonight and I was telling my friend about it. I was like, Oh, I don't know how it's going to go because I'm so picky. And then I was like, hold on, that is not the right word.

That was literally me last night. I was like, I don't know what other word to use, but I don't like picky. So I'm very happy you came in at the right time to give me the word discernment. I like that.

Yeah. Oh, and it's, and it's so fun for me to like come into first dates being like, okay, so like, let's be discerning with each other. Let's be curious about each other. Like, are we, like, are we going to be a good match in what kind of way? And most people like leave those dates in the like mines blown.

And like, I have never had a first date like that. That was interesting. Yeah, it's a different.

But what's interesting more like you want more about or interesting like, thank you very much, but check please. Sure, sure, sure. I mean, it probably depends on the person, right? I mean, when you throw a new paradigm at someone, so that's, that can be very scary to a lot of people.

Yeah, I had actually people come back to me after several years and being like, so I wasn't really ready to like do that two years ago. Checking back in. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, exactly. And it takes time and we meet people where they're at. Everyone's on their own journey of what relationships, connections look like to them.

So I mean, we hold the space as we navigate that and knowing that we're in the same thing too, right? Like, to some other person where that same stole a little like, I'm not ready for this, you know, so we're all on just like our own journey is figuring it out. Yeah, you know, it's really interesting, like the dark side of my fixer was that like, oh, well, you other person that I'm in a relationship, if you just did this one thing, like, you would get it, you would be perfect. Like the part of me that wants to help, help big air quotes people is not necessarily like a healthy helping sometimes. It is, it is, it is me saying, oh, I'm going to insert my values into you and say like, this is, this is how you should be.

And that's going to make our relationship better. Took me a little while to figure out how to not do that. Yeah, that was that was tough. Because we're still coming in telling other people how to live and what's best for them when, yeah, yeah, we shouldn't be doing that. I mean, that's hitting home for me too.

So I hear that lesson loud and clear. Yeah, so it took a long time for me to be like, you know what, I wish you were at this point right now. So we like, we could align, but you're not.

And that's okay. And maybe you will circle around and maybe you, you know, maybe you won't. So you walk away, that's the hard piece, right? Because you see, Oh my God, they're so close.

And you're like, I just want to love you into this space. Yeah. But like, oh, man. I mean, at that point, then we're holding on to like the idea of someone in hope, like I am dating the hope that they change. And that is, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Might never come. Loving the idea of someone loving the idea of someone just will rot in a relationship. Yeah. You've left me with a lot of nuggets to really like ponder on and take forward into my space. I want to hold a little bit of space too as we come to the end of our time. Was there anything that you feel like we didn't hit on today that you really wanted to talk about? Otherwise I have a closing question to kind of wrap up our time. No, you know, I came into this, like very explicitly, just want to see where the conversation went. There's always more to talk about.

Like I could, I could peek out about this stuff for days on end. But I'm like, I really, I really love all the twists and turns that this took. And it just, I feel, I feel really good and I feel complete.

Good, good, good, good. And I hope that sticks because the question that I have to ask you, you directly referenced not liking this word. So the question I ask everyone on the podcast is what is one thing that you wish other people knew was more normal? And if you would like to take that to familiar, I am happy to respect that request.

I can, I can, I can understand the course since a lot of language is like, be flexible. Yeah. Yeah. One thing that I wish was more normal. Oh, there's something that I read in Emily Nagoski's Come As You Are. It's a book that I absolutely love.

And I absolutely love Emily as a person, like how she approaches geekiness, but also like how that, how that, can be expanded to like much bigger things. And one of the things that she says several times in that book is all the same pieces arranged in different ways. And I think one of the things I wish was more normal was the understanding that we're pretty much made up of the same stuff, arranged in different ways with different experiences.

For all human, we need connection in lesser or greater amounts. But like, our, our experience is a common experience on a very course level. And we're not alone because of that. So like understanding the common threads that, that bind us all together is a big part of the work that I do.

It's a big part of how I live my life. I want recognition that those threads exist to be normalized. Because that's how you let go of shame, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's, and that's what carries you through conflict too. Yes. Yes, that you're not alone.

And I think there's always that paradox, right? You know, light has wave particle duality, right? It is yes and both, right?

So it's like, Oh, yes, and yes, like, right? Like we're all have the human experiences of wanting love, connection, all those sorts of things. And at the same time, you are infinitely unique. And what you experience up there tragically is isolation and its own experience, right? Of like your own mental space, it was always going to be you and no one else can ever really get up to there, right? Exactly. So it's like, we're all connected and on our own at the same time, just like the yes and wave particle duality, right?

It's always both. You know, I love digging into that duality. The fact that I am a divine, like rational, conscious aware being stuffed inside of a meat sack that is like going through life and like locked into a temporal line, like there's some really things in that. And like, yes, all of that.

Yes and that has been my biggest thing is like, how can I embrace yes and in most, or dare I say, all of my areas of life? I mean, that's the same thing with quantum mechanics, right? And like Newtonian physics, right?

It's like, yes and different scales, different times, different applications. And so yeah, that has been my like piece of this last year, when I'm hoping to bring more into my life of yes and yeah. Awesome. Yeah.

Well, this has been so fun. Where can people find you to connect with your work and your services? So on Instagram, I am at Brian Gibney intimacy and my website is Great, great. Oh, this was so fun. I love geeking out and nerding out about language and all things relationship anarchy. If you enjoyed today's episode, then leave us a five star review wherever you listen to your podcast. And if you're a part of the anarchist community, then follow us on Instagram or nominate a guest for the show by sending in a letter to modern anarchy podcast at Otherwise, I'll see you next week.


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