AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the month “April, 2014”

Gettin’ Hitched, Poly Style

For those of you who know Ben and I, you know that we are now engaged. For readers who don’t know me as well, Ben asked me to marry him a week ago and I said yes. A few people have asked me recently, what is the significance of marriage in the context of a polyamorous relationship? I have mixed feelings about the subject of marriage. I have almost never wanted to be someone’s “wife” because of the connotations associated with the term. I am not someone’s property and I don’t have a strong desire to be a mother. However, I love a good wedding. Back in 2010, I went to a wedding with my ex. The groom was my ex’s cousin and I had only met him once. I was honoured that my name was actually on the invitation. The wedding was performed by the groom’s grandfather and he did an excellent job. It was short, nonreligious, and very meaningful. The bridesmaids were from various countries; it was a true Toronto wedding. I couldn’t help but cry.

A wedding is a great way to showcase your love for each other and that’s exactly how Ben and I feel. We want to get up in front of our family and friends and show them how much we care about each other and how much we plan to keep caring; that’s the part that I like. I have a friend who wants to marry us; she is a drama teacher and a poet, so I think she will do a wonderful job. Since she doesn’t have the legal credentials to marry us, we will go to City Hall and have a small ceremony there as well. It feels very surreal to be planning this wedding but also very natural. About a month after Ben and I started dating, I told him that I would probably say yes if he asked me to marry him. Over the last few months, we have kept talking about it and as Ben said, we were quasi-engaged. Then, last week, I decided to give Ben his birthday present early (his birthday is today, actually). I gave him a notebook with which to write a poem to his dad, as he has expressed wanting to do. In the notebook, I included a letter to him and I wrote in all of the poems that I have written to/about him and us. He teared up and then got down in front of me and asked me to marry him and I said yes.

So, what does marriage mean in the context of polyamory? Obviously, we will continue seeing other people. Neither one of us has a serious relationship but we would like that in the future. I have the fantasy of a triad wedding; obviously, this isn’t legal right now, but I’m curious about what would happen if we went to a judge and said, we want to get married. However, given that Ben and I both want different things from another partner, a triad most likely won’t happen. I would like to be with someone who’s a bit more artsy and he wants with someone more science-y. Unless we find some kind of super person, the triad will not coalesce and that’s fine with us. One thing that does worry me is that anyone else we get involved with will never be able to be married to us later if we do want that option. I really don’t like excluding people but at the same time, I want to marry Ben. One has to be vigilant that any other relationships aren’t given the short end of the stick… I am certainly not a fan of hierarchy and I think all relationships bring something to the table. Being able to recognize and celebrate that is what makes us polyamorous.

As a side note, I’m off to Denver on Friday for a polyamory conference. I’m facilitating a discussion about how people meet in the context of poly. For details, check out the website: http://www.lovemore.com/conferences/polyliving/pl-denver-2014/  Hope to see you there!

If you have any questions about any kind of relationship, send me an email to miriam@askmiriam.ca

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All in the Family

The past week has seen Ben and I attending to things going on in my family. I found out about 2 weeks ago that my paternal stepgrandfather will most likely pass away within a few months due to lymphoma that has spread to his lungs. All of my grandparents live in Montreal, where my parents grew up, so we decided to make a trip. We also passed through Ben’s hometown near Ottawa and visited some people he knows. Last week we arrived in Montreal at the home of my maternal grandparents where we were going to stay. As a note, Ben was meeting everyone for the first time. Everyone liked him, which pleased me. My maternal grandparents are mostly in good health; I have always admired them because they look much younger than their early 80s lets on. They go to the gym, they continue to travel, and they make amazing food like their own bread and jam.

My mother knows about my poly life but has told me not to tell her parents. They are much more traditional than my mother and I don’t think they would understand it. However, I still feel like I have to hide a part of myself. Last year, I visited Montreal with someone I was dating at the time, but we just pretended to be friends, since we were not in a primary relationship. Of course, since Ben and I are in a primary relationship, we can be affectionate toward each other, but I would still like to tell my grandparents that we date other people and it’s okay. However, I feel okay about not telling them because I only see them a few times a year and I don’t want to ruffle any feathers.

On my father’s side, it’s a somewhat different story. My grandfather died many years ago and then almost 20 years ago, my grandmother remarried. My stepgrandfather is a very lovely man and we consider him part of our family. My father is gay and is accepted. My stepgrandfather also has a gay granddaughter and he is very accepting of her. When I visited them last year, they also met the person I was dating at the time. 2 days after they met, I was visiting my grandmother alone. I told her about the poly arrangement and she didn’t quite understand it, but didn’t object. On this visit, Ben and I visited her; my aunt from Victoria was visiting as well. We drove them to the hospital to see my stepgrandfather. My grandmother is of course very anxious and nervous because they are very close.  The gay granddaughter was there as well and informed me she has been reading this blog, so I’m glad at least someone in the family knows. I would love to tell my grandmother about the fact that Ben and I also date other people, but I’m not sure if it’s wise at this point. She is dealing with a lot.

After Ben and I returned to Toronto, we attended the Passover seder at my mom’s house. I am not a religious Jew, but there are things I like doing like Passover, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Hanukah. It’s important for me to be connected to my family in that way because it does allow us to come together, talk, and eat good food. The seder was a bit baffling to Ben. Since I am atheist, my singing of songs that glorify god was understandably confusing. However, I do feel that it’s important to preserve some elements of Jewish culture. It’s a part of my past that I’m not willing to let go of. I do understand that for some people without a religious tradition, religion can seem a bit oppressive. Ben looked uncomfortable while we were reading blessings before the meal however, he relaxed once I explained some things to him and we had a very nice meal and discussion with my family. The day after the seder, my dad reminded me that Passover is very much a metaphor. Jews have had to survive a lot and we use Passover to remember that we can overcome oppression.

It can be very difficult to “come out” to one’s family, whether you are poly, gay, or otherwise. I feel lucky because my parents are progressive and I tell them almost everything anyway, so I didn’t want to hide it from them; they have known almost since the beginning of my being poly. At the moment, Ben and I are not dating anyone else, so I feel it is somewhat irrelevant to tell my grandparents about it. However, what if either of us had another serious relationship? It’s a bit of a conundrum. If I went with someone else to Montreal, what would I tell them? I like having everything out in the open, but I like maintaining peace in my family as well.

If you have any questions, send me an email to miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thanks as always for reading and commenting!

On a More Personal Post: My Relationship with Women

After hanging out with a woman from OkCupid last night, I thought to put together a blog about the evolution of my relationship with women. I grew up predominantly with my mother and my sister. I have always been close with my mom, but my sister and I are pretty different. We fought sometimes when I was younger, but as we grew into adults, we got along much better. I think that was partly because we no longer lived together and drove each other crazy. From Kindergarten to Grade 8, I attended a Jewish private school. I barely had any friends and I think a lot of the girls there didn’t know what to make of me. I have always been a bit unusual plus our school mainly had rich kids and I grew up middle class. A lot of my classmates wore expensive clothes that we never could afford. I did have a few friends who were girls and looking back, I feel like I might have been attracted to one of them, but I don’t think I realized it at the time. In high school, I started dating, but I never dated any girls. However, toward the end of high school, I did have some kind of inkling that I might be attracted to women. I was in my serious relationship, which would last 1.5 years, but one night I saw an attractive woman on TV and I remember feeling very turned on. I didn’t really know what to do about that, though. Shortly after that, my boyfriend and I broke up and I started university.

I didn’t start dating anyone seriously until my second year of university. For the purposes of this blog, I will call him David. David and I ended up being together for a very long time. In my 3rd year of university, I went to Vermont for a conference with a female friend of mine. I didn’t have a driver’s license so my friend did all the driving and it’s quite a long drive from Toronto. My grandparents, who live in Montreal, told us we could stay the night at their house if we wanted to. On our way home from the conference, we took them up on their offer. They were away at the time. On the drive to Montreal, my friend told me she had never kissed a girl. She was also involved seriously with a man at the time. When we arrived in Montreal, I called David and asked him if it would be okay if I kissed my friend. He later told me he thought I was joking, but I wasn’t. My friend and I made out and fell asleep with our clothes on. It was overall a very pleasant experience, though not extremely passionate. I didn’t really think anything of it, but I did enjoy it.

Fast forward to 2008 when David and I were living in Japan.  We sometimes went to hot springs together and I sometimes went alone because I really liked them. The hot springs are normally separated by gender and everyone walks around naked. I remember seeing the women and thinking they were very attractive. Fast forward again to the summer of 2011. I was doing my Master’s and went to Germany, because I was studying the German anti-nuclear movement. My supervisor in Germany went to a conference in Istanbul and I went as well. I met a guy in an open relationship and fell head over heels for him. David visited me in Germany and I told him about the guy; he wasn’t happy about that. He did tell me he was fine with me dating women, which I felt was a double standard but for the moment, I accepted it. When we returned to Toronto, I did have a few dates with women, but nothing went anywhere. The following year, David and I broke up. 2 months after, I had my first relationship with a woman. Overall it was good, but I wasn’t ready to date, so I decided to end things. In the spring of last year, I dated a woman for a very short period of time; she and I are close friends and she introduced Ben and I, so I’m very grateful to her.

Going forward, I’d really like to date a woman. I don’t like putting labels on my sexuality, though. When people ask me if I’m bisexual, I usually say, I guess so. There’s a great book about the fluidity of sexual desire in women by Lisa Diamond. She interviewed 100 women over 10 years about their experiences and she has different categories for sexual orientation. One of those categories is, attracted to the person, not the gender. I very much resonate with that. At the end of the day, people are just people. There is a certain amount of conditioning based on gender that all genders have to deal with, however, we all have our own experiences and emotions. One of the great things about being polyamorous is we can experience it all and we can appreciate people for who they truly are.

If you have a question, send me an email to miriam@askmiriam.ca  Have a great Tuesday!

Relationship Junction, what’s your function?

If we are going to talk about having multiple relationships, let alone one, we need to ask what exactly the function of a relationship is. I’ve been thinking about this over the last couple of days since Ben and I hung out with friends of ours who are a polyamorous married couple; they are both responsible in different ways for Ben and I meeting. The husband made an interesting comment about how they know a couple who are in the process of separating. The man is apparently quite unmotivated and doesn’t want to grow, so the woman decided that the best thing to do would be to end the relationship. That got me thinking about myself and how I want to grow. One thing polyamory has really helped me with is living in the moment. When you are with multiple people, you really have to focus on the person you are with right then and there. In the past I have found that there are only a few activities in life where I can lose myself; writing poetry, sometimes playing ultimate frisbee, and dance. I realized that my learning disability, a nonverbal learning disability that among other things slows down processing speed, also has an effect. Sometimes when I am doing something, I won’t know how I feel about it until afterward. That may keep me from really being in the moment.

So, can we say that personal growth is one of the functions of a relationship? Relationships can sometimes allow us to grow or to be stifled. I think that in a good relationship, all people involved are nourished and positively challenged by each other. This could be through good conversation and debate or by learning new skills. Ben recently mentioned that he has stress hanging over him much of the time. I told him that I want to help him with this, but in the end, it will probably be up to him to really deal with it. Can he help me live more in the moment? We actually both have the same learning disability and perhaps we can help each other to be more in the moment, but there may be only so much we can do in that regard.

As I have written before (https://askmiriamquestions.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/more-than-1/), we all bring past experiences and emotional baggage into every relationship we enter. Sometimes we can decide to make changes, but we also have to recognize that those past experiences are what make us who we are. As we go forward once we are in the relationship, don’t change for the sake of your partner(s), but because you want to. Remember, our partners are with us because of who we are. If they are pushing for major changes, you may want to think twice about being with them.

Thanks for reading and send me any questions to miriam@askmiriam.ca.  All questions will be posted anonymously.

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