AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

AskMiriam about Mediteranean Men

Question: My boyfriend and I are interested in trying poly style relationship but not at home just yet…We are exploring our curiosity, so we recently discussed perhaps planning a summer trip to Europe and try different cultures. I love the Mediterranean, and I would love to meet a Greek guy on one of those beautiful islands. Greek men appear very masculine and I really like that. According to studies and research they are the highest ranked country in terms of love, sex, companionship.

I’d love to travel to the Mediterranean, (perhaps not France,) and meet some masculine men. Do you have any thoughts, suggestions? Where can I look? Have you yourself had any encounters with Greek men?

Answer: I have had the fortune in my life to live in England and I got to spend 3 months in Germany doing research for my Master’s. In terms of the Mediterranean, I have visited Italy, and that’s about it. I haven’t had the fortune to meet a lot of Greek men, so I can’t  answer that part of your question. European countries widely vary in terms of how love, sex, and companionship are constructed and experienced by individual people. Even within countries, just as within Canada, there is variation. I’m sure there are many Greek men who enjoy having sex, and many who don’t. If you visit the Mediterranean, you may find that other men catch your fancy as well!

Your idea of going on holiday and seeing what a non-monogamous or poly relationship might look like is a valid one. There are many couples out there who would prefer to just dip their toes in the water and then have the privilege of going home. What I would recommend is having a discussion with your boyfriend before you go on vacation. You could discuss, for example, whether you want to play together or separately; some couples prefer playing together and some would rather not see their partner being passionate with someone else. Also, you asked where you can look – some countries have places like swinger’s clubs where you can meet other couples who want to play. Greece seems to have a few: http://www.swingersclublist.com/greece-swingers.html  You may also want to try some online dating sites such as OkCupid, which has attracted many non-monogamous people, and see if you can find other likeminded people. Finally, there’s always just meeting people in person. If you decide to, for example, stay at a resort, you’ll meet other tourists who may want similar experiences to the ones you’re seeking. If you go to a beach that locals frequent, you may meet your dream Greek man. However, you may find that if you mention having a boyfriend, they become hesitant. There are plenty of people out there who either have not heard of non-monogamy or do not wish to engage in it at all.

I have found for myself that while abroad, I may feel differently about certain things. I may feel freer, or not; I may feel nervous because I don’t know the culture very well, so I’m not sure how to act. If you find yourself feeling very free, that’s great, but do proceed with caution. It can be easy to get caught up in the romance while forgetting how you are actually feeling. Within polyamory and non-monogamy, communication is one of the most important things, so make sure that the lines of communication are open with your boyfriend. If either of you becomes jealous, talk about it. If you’re having tons of fun, talk about that too! It’s all part of the journey.

Thank you so much for writing in! If you have any relationship questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  I hope you are all having a great start to 2017.

AskMiriam about Dating in a New Place

Question: So how does one go about finding poly partners in a new town? I’m on OkCupid, but getting limited results. Is there some secret code I’ve forgotten?

Answer: I have been on OkCupid for a few years now. I have had little luck with it, so I understand how you feel, dear reader. Meeting poly people when you have just moved can be difficult. I would recommend doing a few different things: First, aside from OkCupid, there are other sites that might help you meet people. There are plenty of poly people on FetLife and there are events posted on the site where you could meet them. FetLife is of course also good if you’re kinky and you want to meet other kinky people. There is plenty of crossover between the poly and kink worlds…

Most cities now have poly groups through sites such as Facebook and Meetup.com. There may also be groups that are hosted on other sites, but I haven’t seen any yet. I would recommend just doing a simple search in your browser for poly groups in your town and see if anything pops up. Poly groups will have different kinds of events such as discussions and socials, and you may meet different people at different events. Meetup.com has plenty of groups  that are related to polyamory, so have a look around the site. Here in Vancouver, we have several poly groups on Facebook, but the problem is that they are either secret or closed, so they are hard to find. However, once you meet someone, they will be able to add you to the group.

Aside from the Internet, there may be events around town where you can meet poly folks. For example, if it’s a sex positive event, I would say there’s a fairly good chance that poly folks will attend. Since you’re new to town, you may also want to join a group that fits one of your interests. You never know who you may meet there, and you will at least have something in common! Good luck to you, dear reader. I know it can be hard to find poly folks, but I hope the tips I have given have been useful.

If you have a relationship question, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thank you for reading!

The Elephant in the Room

Every relationship is non-monogamous. This is a controversial statement, to be sure, but let me explain. Even in a relationship with only 2 people involved and where neither of them have other partners, there is a 3rd figure: the relationship itself. Each person in the couple contributes their time, energy, emotions, resources of all types, as well as so many other things, so that the relationship itself stays afloat. We might speak of people doing things for the sake of their partner, but we can also say that people contribute toward the dynamic itself. I remember when Ben told me that an act can be committed because someone had previously done something and an act can be committed for the sake of partnership. Not all acts can be so altruistic, but I think that every person in a relationship acts to keep the dynamic as dynamic as it could be.

Unfortunately, because of gender conditioning, women are often taught to contribute a lot toward their relationship, even in a situation where they get nothing back. What I have observed is that many men act as if they value their relationships less and will do less for relationship’s sake, even if they need the relationship more (if we are speaking of heterosexual couples). I have been in that position several times and it doesn’t feel great when you feel like you’re doing more than your partner. In a sense, I feel like I learn from my mother because she has done, and continues to do, so much for me and I have watched her do so much for her various partners. However, there is a positive side to all this: I do feel like I get back a lot, so it usually feels like it’s worth it. For those of you out there who find yourself in a situation where you feel like you’re doing too much or you want to do more, talk to your partner. Communication can help a lot.

At the beginning of last week, Ben and I had some very difficult conversations, somewhat related to this topic. There are things he does that I would like to be different. One thing in particular has caused me some pain: there have been times where he misinterprets what I say or thinks that there are a myriad of things behind the statement that I’m either unaware of or just don’t say. Over the years, I have become ever more careful about what I say. I used to blurt out whatever came into my head and I realized that that wasn’t always a good thing. Because of that, I’ve become more mindful of the words I use. I’m also a fairly direct person, so I say what I mean. However, women are often taught to communicate indirectly and I do have to fight that sometimes. I acknowledge that sometimes, there are things I’m hiding and there have been times where I was honest and I given flack for it. In my close relationships though, I want to be honest because I know I won’t be punished by people who understand me.

Thus, Ben and I both have things to work on and I acknowledge that I want to accept him more for who he is. We were afraid that all of those difficult conversations could lead to us not getting married, but we also realize that what we have is so valuable. Even when things are tough, we still want to be together and we have to remember that good times will always come back. I sincerely hope that 2016 will include many of them, for myself, Ben, and all of you dear readers!

If you have a relationship question, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thank you as always for reading!

The Power of Confession

In my last post, I mentioned about someone I rode the bus with, after the poly gathering. He will be known as Nicholas and we’ve now seen each other a few times. This is his first poly relationship and I think he’s handling it pretty well; he’s expressed a desire to get to know Ben and he treats me well. On Saturday morning, I went with him to an event promoting an organization he belongs to. I know several people who have gone through their program and it seems to remake people’s lives. At the event, I talked to a woman who is going through their program and she asked me what I thought. I told her what struck me the most was the show of emotion when people talked about their lives and how they’ve changed as a result of the program; this got me thinking about the power of confession.

In our culture, we often speak about ‘coming out,’ especially when you live a life that goes against the norm. We construct a need for gay, poly, and other non-normative people to come out and confess their secrets. One consequence of this is that people who lead seemingly ‘normal’ lives don’t necessarily get that opportunity. In normal conversations, people don’t often confess an aspect of their life that the other person wouldn’t know, unless they asked specifically. This can occur in every type of relationship, including intimate ones. Why is it that non-normative folks need to come out when so-called ‘normal’ people don’t have that chance?

Ben and I often have conversations about labels, which I think feeds the need to come out. For me personally, I don’t like labelling my sexual orientation. Part of it is that I don’t like the word ‘bisexual’ and ‘pansexual’ just sounds odd to me. I don’t like calling myself ‘queer’ because I’m already weird. I also protest the fact that we have a need to label the person standing in front of us. Ben argues that labels should be descriptive, not prescriptive. What I feel is that labels in fact *are* prescriptive. We assume that gay people are a certain way, that poly people are a certain way. We also still assume that women love shopping and that men love sports when different people enjoy different pastimes.

For us polyamorous folks, I think many of us want to confess to our friends, family, and co-workers that we have more than one romantic relationship, but we fear the consequences. Some of my family members feel uncomfortable because of how public I am about my relationships and sexuality. Currently, I’m in Victoria, BC, where my grandmother, aunt, and uncle live. I went for a walk yesterday with my aunt and she told me that my uncle doesn’t think that his niece should be so public about her sex life. On the other hand, many people have commended me for my courage. For myself, I want people to know that there are poly people out there and that they have a choice when it comes to relationships. I don’t think poly is for everyone, but I think that if people want this life, they can have it. We just need to have a space in our society for people to confess if they wish to, and not be judged for it.

If you have a relationship query, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca To those of you who celebrate Christmas, merry Christmas! I hope my readers and their loved ones enjoy this holiday season. Ben and I are going to Washington state on Thursday and we greatly look forward to it.

My Alterations

It’s been a very long time since I wrote a blog. Nothing has gone up on this site since the end of September and I feel a bit bad about that, but truthfully, life has been too busy; I’ve barely had a day off since that last blog. School has been quite taxing and on top of it, I work as a research assistant and a tutor. Going back to school is always difficult. Between my undergraduate and Master’s degree, I lived abroad and worked for 4 years. That first semester back at school was very hard for me. And it’s never just  the fact of school being hard; it’s the fact that relationships suffer because of it. Dear readers, I have honestly been depressed and that hasn’t really happened since I was 15. At that time I wondered if anyone would care if I just disappeared. It wasn’t about killing myself but I guess I wasn’t feeling very loved or appreciated at the time. Part of the reason I’ve been feeling that way recently is because I don’t know many people in Vancouver. I have made some friends, but it never feels like enough. I dated a bit but nothing has gone anywhere. Of course, I’m lucky to have Ben, but being an extroverted person, I need more people in my life.

At the end of my 15 year old self being depressed, I told myself that I would be relentlessly optimistic and wouldn’t let anything get in my way. I guess that period lasted about 17 years and now I feel like I have to tell myself something else. I can’t really be relentlessly optimistic anymore, not necessarily because of my own life, but because of how the world works. At 32, I feel much more confident in myself than I did at 15; I feel like I can achieve what I want and I know how to ask for support along the way. The problem is, I know too much about how the world works. Asia certainly didn’t help; going through what we did in Korea and dealing with China was certainly a trying experience, to say the least. Ben and I also had to figure out how to live and be together without smothering each other.

Now, at the very least, Ben and I are in therapy, and it does make us feel closer. It makes our problems seem more manageable. The hard thing is that both of us are holding on to old baggage; everyone does. Some of that makes Ben angry and some of that makes me upset. The trouble is that it also makes us who we are. What we need to figure out is how to deal with it properly so that we can be together and be happy. With all of this, I feel like I’m altering myself and I don’t feel that as a negative thing. I feel like we get few opportunities in our lives to really remake who we are. Now I want to remake myself into someone who won’t deal with any bullshit. Of course, we deal with some in our daily lives but I want that to be with my own consent and not just to make the other person happy.

I actually got to practice that last week. I went to a poly gathering last Friday in Burnaby and then took the bus home. I had been on the bus with someone else from the gathering and we had a pleasant chat until he got off. When we passed through downtown Vancouver, a very classy looking woman got on the bus with a nice coat and a short dress. Later, a guy got on and sat across from her. I was sitting right behind him, so I could see everything he was doing, including taking a picture of the woman without saying anything to her. I was debating saying something because I was in that situation in China many times and I really didn’t like it. I decided I would speak up. The guy got off just before I would and as he rose from his seat, I told the woman that he had taken her photo. He was shaking and explained he liked her coat. She said, well, you didn’t have to take a picture of my face. Can you delete the photo? He did indeed delete the photo, but it’s possible that he had already sent it to a friend. I hope he thinks twice in the future about doing something like that.

I told the person who I had been on the bus with about what I did and he said, Miriam, you’re a frickin rockstar. He and I have been talking a lot since then and we’re going to see each other in 2 days. He actually enjoys talking on the phone and we’ve had long phone conversations. It seems like we have quite a lot in common and a good rapport, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him again.

Another thing that has led to this questioning of myself is something called vulvodynia, which simply means pain in the vulva. I’ve been dealing with this since about May or June. This has made sex rather difficult and has made me think a lot about my relationship to sex. I talk about sex… a lot. As you know, dear readers, I think that sex needs to be talked about more often in our society and I take it upon myself to let that happen. Since I’ve gone back to school, I’ve talked and read about a lot of sexuality related stuff. I’ve taken 2 classes on sexuality, one in the sociology department where I had the fortune to write a paper on poly, and one called Introduction to Critical Studies in Sexuality. Ben and I always laugh because that’s my CSIS class. Anyway, with all of this reading and talking about sex in class, I’ve barely been able to have any. Unfortunately, that can make a couple feel further apart. Ben and I still try to have physical intimacy, but intercourse has been almost impossible.

On the upside, I don’t feel as motivated by sex as I used to and again, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes I like it when sex is infrequent because it makes it feel that much more special. I also don’t feel like I want to be with more than 1 person because of the sexual variety. I think it’s important to be with people because of who they are, not just because you like fucking them. That all being said, I have the fortune to live in Vancouver and Vancouver General Hospital is running a Multidisciplinary Vulvodynia Program. I was accepted into it and my cohort will start the program either in February or April. The program is connected to UBC and the doctors involved have done research on whether the program has a positive effect on the participants; the findings show that it has. Since I’ve been taking a psychology class in research methods, I wonder how research actually gets conducted, but as a participant, I’m happy to know that the program helps.

Dear readers, I hope you’ve been able to read this entire blog; I know it’s a lot longer than usual, but there was a lot to say. As always, I appreciate having an audience. If you have any relationship questions, send me an email at miriam@askmiriam.ca

AskMiriam about Poly and Young Children

Question: Hello Miriam, I was wondering about my children. Myself and my boyfriend recently have taken on a girlfriend, so we have formed a triad. My question is how do I explain to my young children that this is not a normal lifestyle choice and that it is not expected out of them when they grow older? My mother has expressed concern to me about this because she thinks that me having not only a boyfriend or a girlfriend but having both could be damaging to my children’s mental health. I do not desire to harm my children in any way so I am asking for advice on this subject.

Answer: I asked Elisabeth Sheff, the author of The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families, to weigh in on this because I’m less familiar with issues regarding children. She responded with the following:

The short answer is: Yes, polyamorous families can be healthy. Just like other families, the way having poly parents affects children depends in large part on how the adults conduct themselves in their relationships. There is nothing inherently pathological about polyamorous families, and they are not destined to damage the children who grow up in them. Polyamorous families can create healthy, stable, loving environments for children when the adults provide that kind of environment. Poly families are not perfect, and their kids experience some of the same problems common in other blended families. For those poly folks who can find the right balance in their relationships, however, multiple-adult families can be extremely advantageous for children and adults.

The medium answer includes: Multiple adults provide lots of attention, greater life experience, copious support, and abundant role models for children. Pooling their resources also allows adults to have more personal time, work more flexible hours, and get more sleep because there are multiple people around to take care of the children. Poly parents said that they felt more patient and had more energy for their children when they were well rested and had sufficient income – all of which benefitted their children.

The long answer is also that: It depends a lot on how the adults talk to the kids and how old the kids are. How poly parents talk to their kids about it makes a big difference to how the kids will think or feel about the parents’ poly relationships. For kids of all ages, the best strategy seems to be an age-appropriate and honest response to kids’ questions. Divorce is so common today that almost all children know peers with multiple parents already – dad and his new wife, mom and her new girlfriend – so the presence of additional adults is not nearly as socially outlandish as it would have been 50 years ago. It also makes it very easy for kids from poly families to blend in with kids from divorced families, so the poly family kids hardly ever have to explain their families to teachers, coaches, or casual acquaintances.

How old the children are also makes a big difference in what they think of the adults in their environments. Small kids eight or under generally do not have a sophisticated understanding of adult romantic relationships, and so might not need an explanation at all. Little kids take their family form for granted because it is all they know, and until they learn that other peoples’ families are different they will not think that their family is unusual. Parents’ partners are likely to blend in with all of the other caring adults in kids’ lives, and there is no need for parents to make a big deal out of what happens after the kids are in bed.

Tweens from nine to 12 have a more sophisticated understanding of adults’ relationships and might notice looks or touches between adults the way their younger siblings do not. When kids notice something happening and appear uncomfortable about it, they might be concerned that the parents are cheating and the kid knows a terrible secret that will hurt the other parent. In those cases, it is important for parents to let kids know that the parents are being honest with each other, it is not a secret from the other parent, and the kids can ask whatever questions they have. Kids in these settings often do not want detailed explanation of the romantic side, and using phrases like “hanging out” or “spending special time together” can be honest answers appropriate to smaller children.

As kids grow up, their understandings of adult interactions become more sophisticated and they have more points of reference to compare their families to their peers’ families. Generally they will become aware that their family is unconventional by the time they are late in elementary school, at which point they might begin wondering more about the adults in their lives. Creating a family atmosphere where children feel confident their questions will be met with thoughtful, honest answers allows kids to take the lead and ask questions not only about their family dynamics, but everything else too. Poly parents report that free ability to think and talk helps the children trust them and creates emotional intimacy for the whole family.

Finally, just because you are polyamorous does not mean your children will be polyamorous when they grow up. Kids in my study had a range of attitudes towards polyamory: some would under no circumstances consider doing it themselves, and others could see no other way to live a free and authentic life. Most of them, however, were not sure, and were still trying to figure out how to kiss or who they liked. They were going to leave any decision about polyamory to the future when they were older and it was more germane to their lives. Not one single child in my study said that they would be polyamorous because their parents were, and instead all of them thought about their own boundaries and considered their options.

I want to say thank you to Elisabeth for such a thoughtful answer and I will provide my own 2 cents. As each generation passes, many people are becoming more and more progressive. I think that people around my age and younger either accept polyamory or don’t really care how people choose to conduct their relationships. The person who wrote in said that their mother thought poly would harm the mental health of the children; that could very well be a generational belief. I always thought that my parents would understand poly more because of the free love ethos of the late 60s and early 70s. On the contrary, that ethos often got a bad name and polyamory is much different. I would advise the person who wrote in to say to their kids, depending on their ages, in simple language that the all of the adults care for each other and that they will always be there for the kids. I think that’s mainly what the kids want to know. I myself have been involved with people who had children. In one case, I was introduced as a friend. I didn’t mind that too much because the kids were so young and as Elisabeth said, they probably wouldn’t have understood. This situation is different because the adults are living in a triad. Personally, I think that no matter how old the kids are, they will know at least a bit about what’s going on, but they may not understand it. I think it’s better to explain things to the kids sooner rather than later.

On a personal note, many of my readers know that my dad is gay. He came out when I was 6. I’m pretty sure I told some people at school about it and I was made fun of. There may be some concern in this case about telling kids at school that their parents have an unusual relationship. I would have an honest discussion with the children and see if they are concerned about this issue. There may be a local PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter that could help, if you are seeking it, as they may be able to provide some support. As Elisabeth said, many children have parents who are divorced and they may live in blended families; knowing that a classmate has 3 parents isn’t really a stretch. I would also agree that polyamory is not harmful to children’s mental health. Imagine living in a house where at least 1 parent is always available and everyone is committed to each other – that sounds pretty ideal to me.

For more of Elisabeth Sheff’s writings, check out http://elisabethsheff.com/

I can’t stress communication enough apparently

The other day, I had quite possibly one of the most boring dates I have ever had. I had looked forward to it, but once on it, I felt like we had nothing in common. He mainly seemed to talk about work and he also shared with me that he’s a pretty secretive and protective person. Once he said that, I knew there was no future because secretive people don’t really get along with my personality.

Regardless, he did make me think about something. He asked me why I became poly. One of the reasons I cited was that I enjoy open communication. He didn’t seem convinced that that would be grounds to become poly. I tend to disagree; many monogamous couples don’t really enjoy the type of open communication that poly people do, partly because we have to. When you are involved with many people, it’s nice to keep everyone abreast of what’s going on. Also, it’s very nice to have the freedom to tell your partner, I think that person’s cute and I might want to date them. In a monogamous relationship, that may be grounds for ending the relationship. However, in a poly context, being able to share that information may have the opposite effect: it can make relationships stronger.

In any relationship, communication is so important. Unfortunately, we are often not taught how to do so effectively. For those of us who like communicating directly, we are often penalized for doing so in our culture. I always admire the Germans who always speak so directly. They may offend people, but they are at least being honest. When Ben and I were in China, Ben was told directly, you are holding your chopsticks wrong. The comment wasn’t welcome of course, but I admire the fact that people can speak directly in, what they feel, is an attempt to be helpful. When communicating to a partner, it’s very useful to use I statements. For example: “I feel like ______ when you do ______.” It’s amazing to be in relationship where speaking about how one feels is welcome rather than punished. It’s true that monogamous relationships have the potential for open communication, but often, there are too many assumptions that make the parties feel that they don’t need to communicate worthwhile things. Some people may want to tell their partner that they’re attracted to someone else, but they assume that their partner will feel badly as a result and will end the relationship. It’s quite natural to feel attracted to other people and I think people in monogamous relationships can at least ask their partner, how would you feel if I told you I was attracted to someone else? Then a conversation can begin.

If you have any relationship questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  I may have some more dates soon. Hopefully, I’ll have some successful ones to write about!

The Scariness of Multiple Choice or Tools of the Polymath

Over the weekend, I took a class that should help me for the GRE, the American Graduate Record Exam. I’d like to do my PhD in the US, so I’ll need to take that exam in the next few months. The GRE has 2 verbal sections and 2 quantitative reasoning, i.e. math, sections. Now, dear readers, math has sometimes been the bane of my existence. When I was 15, I was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability, which among other things, affects visual-spatial reasoning. For something like geometry, my brain can’t cope. I get frustrated and I can end up crying. I was thinking about whether this might have any parallels with non-monogamy. During the class, I remembered that I can understand math sometimes when I see it in front of me, but I feel like I don’t have the tools to do it myself. In terms of relationships, we don’t always learn how to conduct them. The tools are available to us, but we may not know how to use them. For example, communication. Most people aren’t necessarily taught how to communicate well. Women are often socialized to be passive/aggressive and men might be socialized to be overly assertive. I think that communication should be a collaborative exercise where parties work together to achieve their goals, instead of people jostling for power. One thing we often face with communication is the fact that what people say is often more of a reflection on them than the people they’re talking to; we may end up taking some things personally when we really don’t need to.

In addition to communication, we aren’t really taught how to have sex. In normal society, sex isn’t really discussed. Teens don’t really want to get any sort of sex advice from their parents and sex education is often lacking. Once we have sex for the first time, we don’t really know what we’re doing. What would society look like if everyone learned important tools for having sex when they were younger? Instead, we now face ridicule for things like updating the sex ed curriculum in my home province of Ontario. Women are slut shamed. Men get to have sex with as many people as they like with very little reprimand. Few young people realize that they have options such as poly, though I think that’s changing with things like the Internet and other forms of media.

If we embark upon polyamory, we might have lots of choices. We can be with more than 1 person and we may decide we want to be with 1 person for every day of the week. The options can be dizzying and perhaps even frightening. As someone wise once told me, the more relationships you have, the more can end. I’d rather start things that have the potential to last for awhile and if we stretch ourselves too thin, our partners may feel unappreciated and we might be exhausted. The process of getting to know someone can be awesome, but also time consuming and once a relationship is established, it’s good to have the tools to make sure it has potential.

Thank you for reading! I’m happy to report I have a second date tomorrow with someone from OkCupid. We’ll see how that goes. Feel free to email with any relationship queries. My email address is miriam@askmiriam.ca

On Not Caring What Others Think

Ben is now with me in Vancouver and we’re quite happy about that. It’s nice for us to get to be domestic together again. Aside from that, I’ve unfortunately had to deal with some family nonsense. Last weekend, Ben and I went to visit my grandmother, who has moved to BC from Quebec. She moved to the same city as 2 other family members of mine, whose identity I will keep secret. Until recently, she was living with them and that was difficult at times because one of them can be a rather taciturn individual. I will call that individual R and use the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’ in order to keep the gender a secret. R discovered my blog about 8 months ago and sent me a very disgruntled email. I had written about my interest in doing a PhD in order to study polyamory more in-depth. R wrote to me saying that I might as well do a PhD in being a couch potato because that would make just as much sense. R also wrote that I was disgracing the family because I use my name on the blog – forget the fact that I don’t use our last name, so people who don’t know me personally can’t trace my family through my blog. I sent R a rather diplomatic email back, but never heard back. I don’t really care what R thinks because we’re not close, but I was concerned because my grandmother was living with R and R definitely shared how they felt with my grandmother. When I visited my grandmother 2 years ago, I had tried to explain poly to her, but she didn’t really get it. After the nonsense with R, I was very happily surprised when my sister actually stood up for me and explained to my grandmother that I wasn’t cheating on Ben. When Ben and I actually saw my grandmother last weekend, she said she doesn’t care about how I live my life; she’ll always love me. Before going to see her, I sent a cordial email to R saying that Ben and I would be visiting that city and I asked R if they would like to meet Ben. R wrote back saying, not interested. I’m disappointed that R doesn’t really want to be involved in my life, but ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is the fact that another family member of mine isn’t talking to me and I’m close to them. I will call that family member S and use the pronouns they and them. S is someone I’ve grown very close to over the last few years. S is actually the only person in my family to have met the American, who got me into poly. I thought the 2 of them would get along, so I introduced them when the American visited me and that did go well. In terms of more recent events, S was going to contribute money to the wedding, but has decided not to because they think Ben and I shouldn’t be getting married right now due to our unstable financial situation. S also thinks that I should not be doing a PhD; I should focus on making myself employable in Canada. The irony is, one reason why I want to study in the US is because that will make me more employable in Canada. Universities tend to like it when you’ve studied in a different country because they want to have different perspectives contributing to the field. Also, PhDs in the US tend to be funded and there are people I want to work with there. I would very seriously consider doing my PhD at UBC because I really like Vancouver and I don’t have a huge desire to move yet again, but I need to know that it would lead to employment afterward and that I would be funded. Regardless, the situation with S is difficult because we are close. I care about what S thinks, but I’m not going to modify my life to suit S’s concerns. There is a part of me that thinks that S is afraid of being abandoned. They don’t like the fact that I keep moving and would prefer if I was in Toronto. The truth is, Toronto doesn’t feel like my home anymore.

In general, I think society often expects that women are going to adjust their lives to suit others around them. Women follow their partners to other countries because their partner has found a job there. Women give up a career they love to raise children while their partner continues working. Women may even modify their reactions to suit their partners. As a feminist, I refuse to change my life significantly to suit someone else unless I feel comfortable with it. I like pleasing people, but I also want to please myself. I was talking to a slightly older friend who told me that all of this gets easier with age. Women are respected more and taken more seriously as we get more grey hair. Thankfully, I’ve already started getting those…

If you have any relationship questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thank you as always for reading! I hope to blog more regularly from now on.

Settling into Attachment

This blog will be about 2 different things. Firstly, settling, by which I’m referring to the fact that I’m settling into Vancouver. As some of you might know, I’ve done my fair share of travelling and moving to new places. Unfortunately, it never gets any easier. I’ve been in Vancouver now for nearly 3 weeks. I feel lucky because I have family in the area and I have a few friends here as well. Nonetheless, it takes time to meet people and build a rapport. I feel lonely here sometimes. Ben is finally arriving on Thursday and we’ve missed each other quite a bit. I miss waking up next to someone and Ben is, quite happily, the person I like most waking up next to. I also haven’t had much opportunity here to cuddle with anyone, so I’m really missing physical touch. OkCupid has ever proved useful for dating, and I have met some people, but sparks haven’t really flown yet. To be honest, I’ve never had the best of luck with OkCupid. I find people on there who are very cool and I’ve definitely made one friend from there thus far, but chemistry is a difficult thing. It usually eludes me.

Now, some words about attachment. Before leaving Toronto, Ben and I bumped into an acquaintance of mine. I told her of my intention to pursue a PhD and do research on polyamory. She said to me, I have a topic for you. She’s considered being in poly relationships, but she has one main concern: the strength of the attachment. She believes that the attachment of a monogamous couple is much stronger than a polyamorous couple. I think she makes a fair point, but I tend to disagree with her. In a poly relationship, a couple encounters issues that a monogamous couple wouldn’t. In monogamy, jealousy is present, but it’s hidden away; poly couples have to deal with it openly and that can end a relationship. However, for the couples who succeed in dealing with jealousy, I think their relationship becomes stronger because they develop ways of communicating better (communication goes a long way in allaying jealousy, in this writer’s opinion). In addition, a monogamous relationship generally only has 2 destinations: marriage or a breakup. Poly relationships can change over time and parties need to agree to its terms before it starts, in general. It could be a D/s relationship, a purely sexual relationship, a purely emotional relationship, or anything along the spectrum. The parties in the relationship, I think, are more likely to sit down and talk about what the relationship will entail. There is, however, one thing that can be difficult in a poly relationship: since people are free to explore other bonds, they may decide to, for example, change their secondary partner to a primary partner and primary to secondary (to use hierarchical terminology that doesn’t always apply). Some people end all their relationships at once if one is going badly. These aren’t necessarily responsible practices. As someone has joked before, poly people sometimes end up talking more about sex than actually having it. However, I do think that communication is often stronger in poly relationships and that makes relationships have more secure attachments.

This weekend is Pride in Vancouver and I’ll be marching tomorrow with VanPoly! I look forward to meeting more poly people here. If you have any relationship queries, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca. I look forward to your questions as always.

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