AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the month “October, 2013”

Those Tricky Tricky Feelings…

I was told recently that I’m a person who doesn’t go slowly. I think this is one of my best and worst qualities. When I like someone, they know it. It also means that I often develop feelings more quickly for someone than they do for me. This isn’t inherently wrong, but I get tired of the balance being tilted in the other person’s favour. I also have fewer boundaries than most people and I’m not scared of getting hurt. This can be both great and scary, especially in the context of polyamory. When I like someone and I’m in a good mood, I flirt with more people and I have the desire to start more relationships. I can also recognize it in myself that when I’ve met this new person and I like them, I start seeing their flaws pretty quickly. This is great in that I can judge if I want to be with that person, with all of their good qualities and annoyances. However, I also tend to ignore the things about them that annoy me and continue seeing them, perhaps in spite of my best judgment. That being said, those are not things that would prevent me from dating them. I realize I’m using the word ‘annoying’ a lot in this post, but I do think it’s appropriate. I don’t like to classify things as bad; they just are.

I recently met someone who I’m pretty excited about. We have a lot in common, I think, though I’ve only seen him a few times. There are certain things about him that are both great and annoying. Of course, he and I are still getting to know each other. He’s also new to this city and he seems to make friends and meet people easily. I was invited out last week to meet some of his friends, which I very much appreciated. We all got along pretty well. I think it speaks greatly of a person when they already want you to meet their friends, given that that was the 3rd time I had actually seen him. It’s always exciting to meet someone new that I like. We’ll see where it goes…

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TMI?

Question: To follow up with the question on STIs.. what would you do if one of your partners (say, partner 1) wants to be made aware when your other partner(s) (partner 2) fools around with other people (for safety purposes)? On one hand, you want to make partner 1 feel safe, but on the other hand, isn’t that a breach of trust if partner 2 doesn’t want you sharing that information?

Answer: This is a tricky situation in the context of any relationship. Even if you are monogamous, you may ask your partner about previous relationships they’ve had and any STI risk that might arise from it. In the context of a polyamorous relationship, different people are comfortable with different amounts of information being shared. Personally, I like it when everyone knows what’s going on, but I’m often unusual in that regard. As my friends know, I’m comfortable leading a public life. In your case, I would first talk to partner 1 and see what sort of information they would like to know. Then, talk to partner 2 and see if they are comfortable with that information being shared. There may have to be some sort of compromise. This will be a lot easier when the 2 partners know each other. This is tricky when, for example, you are fluid bonded with one of them. The person you are fluid bonded with would probably want to know about certain sexual activities, but there is also a lot of trust in your judgment. I personally think there is often too much worry about STIs. As long as you are careful, everything should be fine. Hope this helps and thanks for asking Miriam! 

If you have a question, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  All questions posted are anonymous.

Scared and TerrifIed: STIs and Polyamory

Question: I’ve met with a couple of people from an online dating website. A couple of times, things have gone well enough that I’ve bitten the bullet and sent along a very awkward email in which I ask about health and safety. I’m always embarrassed to bring these issues up, but of course it’s so important… since I have to be mindful of impacts to my partner’s health as well as my own. Anyway, here’s a quote from the email, so you know where I’m coming from:

“So I’ll share my side of things: to the best of my knowledge both my partner and I have clean records. No STI’s of any sort (not even cold sores). Now, I have never specifically gone to be tested–I know I really should–but we gave blood last year and didn’t hear anything (they screen for lots of things, obviously). It’s also been a couple years since the last time I took up with a new partner, and I’ve never experienced any symptoms. I have *always* used condoms outside my primary relationship, and will continue to do so. My primary partner and I don’t use barriers, of course, but I’ve had a vasectomy, so pregnancy shouldn’t ever be a concern. Please let me know, in turn, if there’s anything I should know about your health or history.”

Well, much to my consternation, one person has replied to this by admitting that she has, in the past, been exposed to HSV-1 (ie oral herpes or ‘cold sores’)—but has never shown symptoms herself—and has also been diagnosed with HSV-2 (ie genital herpes)—but hasn’t experienced symptoms in several years. 

I’m not entirely sure how to react to this news; it’s pretty outside my realm of experience. First and foremost, of course, I’m overwhelmingly grateful for this person’s willingness to be so honest about an uncomfortable subject. 

Still, my initial reaction is to say: if she carries these viruses, that’s a dealbreaker; we can’t ever be intimate; we have to break things off before they even start.

But is this a naive, paranoid reaction? My understanding is that the prevalence of these viruses is surprisingly high in the general population. Surely it must be higher still among the non-monogamous community? Or is the opposite true: do non-monogamous people tend to be extra careful, and therefore have a lower incidence? The idea of exposing myself to risk of herpes infection is frankly terrifying… because it never goes away, and would therefore cast a shadow over not just my current relationship, but also any future, potential ones. Of course I could take the gamble, then wait until getting tested myself before taking on any new partners… but still, I can’t help being worried about how that might play out. 

On the other hand, if I’m determined to avoid even the slightest chance of exposure… is there any realistic hope of that while engaging in non-monogamy?!

Answer: STIs are an issue when you’re engaged in non-monogamy. As I reported in a previous blog (https://askmiriamquestions.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/lets-talk-about-sex/), poly people tend to get tested more often, so that’s good news.

There is information available on herpes at the Hassle Free Clinic in Toronto’s website here: http://www.hasslefreeclinic.org/Herpes.php  It’s also a great place to go get tested. According to some research I’ve done, herpes is much more likely to be passed to someone else when you have symptoms such as cold sores. You should use a barrier if you are experiencing an outbreak. If you have cold sores in your mouth, use a dental dam when giving oral sex. If you have genital herpes, use a condom. You can also wait to have sex when the outbreak has passed. There is no cure for herpes so there are chances of catching it when there isn’t an outbreak and many adults are carrying it anyway. The same is true for HPV.

It all depends on what you are comfortable with. I suggest having a conversation in person about these issues with the person you met through the website. Since they haven’t been specifically tested for STIs, I think you are within your rights to ask them to be tested. Talk to your primary partner as well. There are always risks but these risks can be managed. I have heard that the more you worry about STIs, the less likely you are to use protection when you should. Sex should be fun so don’t do it if you’re worried. That being said, even with all the testing done, tests don’t pick up everything. I generally advise people to go with their gut. If something feels off, don’t have sex with this person. You have many other options…

 

Finding the One(s)

I have been thinking a lot recently about what makes a good primary partner. There are times when I want to make a list of all the qualities I want but I realize that every person is different and it can depend on who you meet. I met someone 2 weeks ago and we had a really good time. We could have potentially been primaries since we’re both single and have similar attitudes. However, we talked one night and we discovered that our long term goals aren’t necessarily the same. He made the interesting point that when you’re poly, you don’t have to necessarily find everything you want in a primary and it may even be easier to find a primary, despite the smaller dating pool of poly people, because you can be more flexible. You may have the same goals as your primary, but have totally different interests. Those interests could be found in another person. If you’re into BDSM, you could find a play partner. If you like movies and your primary doesn’t, you can find a movie buddy. This partly relates to the last blog about poly dynamics. When your primary partner satisfies certain needs but not others, you can find someone else. In the winter, I was with 2 people who complemented each other very well. One liked languages and the other wasn’t great at them. One liked dancing and the other didn’t as much. One I talked on the phone with more and one I texted with more. The list goes on and on. Those relationships were so fulfilling.

You have to consider what’s best for you. For me I would say communication, honesty, and openness are so important, especially in the context of poly. Chemistry is that tricky element that can be elusive or it just clicks. I think the most important thing for me is being with someone who will be there for me. Relationships change over time and if we can grow together, that’s amazing. Sometimes paths diverge but relationships can still keep going. Finding someone who will be by my side through everything- that’s the dream…

Poly Dynamics and Priorities

I’ve had a couple of thoughts recently I’d like to share. These are not fully articulated but I wanted to put them out there nonetheless. Poly can be a bit of a balancing act sometimes. One thing I find both good and worrisome is the need to have a good dynamic between relationships. What I mean by that is if you have a partner who does x for you, you also want a partner who does y for you. For example, I love dancing and I would love to have a partner who would go out dancing with me and that hasn’t always happened. If I have a partner who doesn’t like dancing, I find myself looking for one who does. I think this can be a good thing because I can be picky about the sort of people I meet but if I am constantly looking for someone who likes dancing, I may not find it. There are times in life when you need to settle and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I don’t always necessarily want to be looking. Also, there are times when a person comes into your life for a reason. You may not know what it is initially but it may become clear later on. I’ve sometimes had that feeling with my new partner. I feel like there is a greater purpose for our relationship. I’m not sure what it is, but I think I will find out. 

The second thought is about priorities. Most poly people I know are not career driven. We make time in our lives for relationships, whether those are romantic or platonic. I often think about what my purpose in life is and how small I am on this planet. I feel like I used to be much more ambitious and sometimes I begrudge myself for not wanting to, for example, go into politics (I have thought about running for city councillor). I want to make a difference in the world in some capacity and perhaps I can make that difference simply by writing this blog. We all want to make an impact on others in some way, but we also want to have fun. As I wrote above, poly is a balancing act and life often is as well…

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