AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the month “June, 2014”

More Out than Most

World Pride has just come to a close in Toronto. I marched in the parade with Polyamory Toronto along with thousands and thousands of other people. Among the people in our group was a good friend of mine, who was commending me for being so out about being poly. My ex of 8.5 years commented awhile ago that I’ve become a poly activist. Personally, polyamory makes sense to me. Humans were never meant to be monogamous, though I think there are some people for whom monogamy is better suited. There are also many people who are scared to be out as poly and there are some who can’t be out because of their work and/or families and friends. I feel lucky that I am able to be out. All of my friends and nearly my entire family knows I’m poly. I’ve never been able to hide the person I am and I can’t keep secrets; those are reasons why poly is definitely for me. For those who aren’t out and can be, I urge you to be so. The world will get easier for people like us if more poly people are out. The media is writing more and more about polyamory. Last week I went to the website of Psychology Today and polyamory was right there on the front. If this keeps up, I sincerely hope that in the coming years, being poly won’t be an issue.

Speaking of being more out, this also affects the way I have relationships. I recently started seeing someone named Tony. We’ve seen each other several times and it’s been really nice. I spent the night at his place over the weekend and when we woke up, I felt the urge to tell him that I love him. We’ve only known each other for a few weeks, so I know it’s very early, but I very much appreciate him and he appreciates me. I feel extremely lucky because I have these 2 wonderful guys who care about me and they aren’t jealous; they also know each other and get along. I did tell Tony that I nearly said I love you and that I know it’s too early. Thankfully, he didn’t say something like, you’re so intense, which some people have said to me in the past because I have shared my feelings. I feel a little bit sad because Ben and I have plans to go away for at least 1 year and I know I’ll miss Tony. Ben and I will most likely be going to Korea to teach English, maybe by the end of the summer. I’m really excited for us to have an adventure together, though I know I will miss everyone here and I’m not sure how easy it’ll be to be poly in Korea. We will see…

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

Good Things Come in Threes

I’m sure that when you saw the title of this post, you thought I was talking about group sex or specifically threesomes. I actually want to talk about my theory of what a good relationship consists of. I have often spoken about this with friends and lovers, but I have never written about it here so I thought this was a good time to do so.

First, good communication. Yes I know I have written about this in many posts, but it can never be emphasized enough, especially with regard to polyamory. We have to be open about what and who we want. When we have partners, they have to know what’s going on. We have to check in and give heads up like there is no tomorrow. I think good communication is often missing from monogamous relationships. You can never underestimate the power of an amazing conversation or just sharing stories from your past. When secrets are revealed to me, I feel closer to the person I’m with. This is often multiplied in polyamory because if I’m dating someone who is in a relationship with someone else, that other partner and I can talk about our own mutual partner. I might tell that person things they didn’t know about our partner. Also, if my partner has an ex I am friends with, I can talk to the ex about what my partner did in the past. This can be very powerful stuff.

Next, good sex. Okay so this post isn’t entirely devoid of sex, but this isn’t specifically about threesomes. When you have good chemistry in life, this can often translate to chemistry in the bedroom. I once heard someone say that the best quality a lover can have is creativity. You have to mix things up sometimes, especially if you are in a long term relationship. Creativity can include lots of things like trying a new position, adding things like BDSM or other types of kink, having sex in different places, testing out whether different points on the body are sensitive, etc. Ok, it can also include things like threesomes and group sex. As long as all partners are satisfied, you’re on the right track. And remember, consent is very very sexy. If you’re planning to try something very different and new for everyone, talk about it first and if needed, plan for it. You may need to go out and get new things; another fun adventure to have together.

Finally, and I think this is something that can be neglected but is very important, good food. This is especially pertinent if you are living together or you spend lots of time in each other’s homes. Go food shopping together or go fruit picking somewhere. Cook together. Eat together and talk while you do so; turn off the TV and computers and I promise, you will be happier. Whether the relationship is romantic or not, good food is important. I just spent a few days at Ben’s mother’s home in eastern Ontario and played cook for a few meals, as they had lots of housework and yardwork to do. Ben’s mom really appreciated the effort I went to. I also happen to like cooking, so it’s not a bother for me. Ben likes doing dishes, so we complement each other well in that regard. Ben has told me before that when we’re apart, he misses my food. That is always a great compliment to get. The food you make doesn’t have to be complicated and many people have simple tastes. I personally like to make simple things because food usually gets on the table faster that way.

Of course, there are other things that make a relationship work, but I think these are 3 very basic things we need to get right. Good communication challenges our brains and good sex and food satisfies our bodies. If you have any questions on how to get these 3 things right, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thanks as always for reading!

How Jealousy Affects Relationships

I always get questions about whether I get jealous as a poly person. Of course it happens, but it also happens in any sort of relationship. For people who are monogamous, jealousy is present, but in a way, you are choosing not to deal with it or you just ignore it. For example, I was with the same person for 8.5 years until 2 years ago and we were monogamous; we remain friends. However, his girlfriend doesn’t want us to hang out because she’s jealous about it. He and I lived in Japan together and often went to karaoke there. We have liked doing it in Toronto as well. She is apparently especially jealous of that because she’s not a good singer. Also, we frequented a particular karaoke place where you have your own room, so she’s scared things will happen in that room. I have absolutely no intention of being sexual with my ex again, but I would like to be his friend. I’m nervous for him because they are moving in together this summer. I hope that she won’t squelch his social life because she wants to be with him all the time. Anyway, you can see that her jealousy has affected our relationship. I understand that she may be intimidated by our long relationship and it sounds to me like she hasn’t had a very positive long relationship either. I wish that this needn’t be the case. I remember when my ex and I started dating; I met his female best friend. I never thought that they would become romantically involved, but I was envious of the fact that she knew so much about him and I wanted that knowledge as well. Yes, envy is different from jealousy, but these are 2 terms under the same umbrella. The nice thing is, if you can be friends with the person, you can learn more about them. Recently, I’ve been spending time with Ben’s best friend and ex and I really enjoy hearing about what Ben was like in the past.

People often say that jealousy is caused by insecurity. I think this can be especially tricky for women because we are often taught by society not to believe in ourselves. I feel very lucky because I had a very supportive family. My parents almost never criticized anything I did and as a result, I have become a confident person. When I was a child, after my parents separated, my mom walked around the house naked a lot of the time and that helped me to be confident in my body. Many women have not been as lucky as me. I hope that with passing time, every woman will appreciate themselves and be appreciated for who they are. 

Compersion has been called the opposite of jealousy. Compersion means being happy for your partner, especially in the context of them doing things with other people. In poly, this could be them having a date or having sex with someone else. Although compersion has been a concept specifically designed for poly people, it can be used in the context of any relationship. If you aren’t poly, you can be happy for your partner when they, for example, make a new friend, get a new job, or have some other kind of important life event. Even if you were poly, you would of course be happy for your partner for those things as well. Why can’t we apply compersion to every relationship? I wish that my ex’s girlfriend would be happy when we spend time together because we meant a lot to each other and to an extent, we still do. We gave each other a lot of experiences we wouldn’t have otherwise had if we hadn’t been together. I probably never would have lived in Japan, for example, and I’m very grateful for him in that regard. I would very much like my ex and his girlfriend to be at my wedding. We’ll see if that comes to pass.

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

Life on Fast Forward

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about poly and time. I joke with people sometimes that remembering things is a hobby of mine. I write poetry fairly regularly and that allows me to remember things that have happened over the course of my life. I’ve been non-monogamous to different extents over the last 2 years- most of that time has been poly, but right after I ended the 8.5 year relationship, I wasn’t really in a place to have multiple relationships. In this 2 year span, so much has happened. I never expected I would be engaged so soon after ending that long relationship. I’ve had a lot of adventures all over the North American continent in the last 2 years and sometimes I can’t believe I’ve managed to cram so much into this short amount of time. A friend of mine said to me that poly isn’t just a way of life for me, it’s also something I’ve studied – that’s very true. I’ve wanted to learn as much as I could about poly, so I’ve gone to conferences, I’ve interviewed people, and I’ve had relationships with all sorts of folks. I remember that one person I interviewed said that she felt that she had gone past a sign that said you will be poly from here on out and that’s how I feel. I don’t think I could ever go back to being monogamous. Poly has its difficult moments, but it allows me to learn about myself and others. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun!

So, what have I learned from doing things quickly? Slow down. I like taking stock of all that’s happened in the last 2 years. I feel grateful that I’ve been able to learn so much. When I first started heading down this road, I really had no idea what to expect. As I wrote recently, I thought it would be difficult to meet people; that has not been hard at all. What’s difficult is the emotional side of it- dealing with jealousy, bolstering self confidence, etc. Remember, dear readers, it’s always important to remember where you came from. That occasionally causes conflict for me because the person who brought me into poly turned out to be a bit of a jerk. I’m glad I met him because he gave me this life, but he wasn’t always nice to me. When I ended things with him, he said to me, nobody talks to me this way – that shocked me, but also made me realize that ending things was the best thing I could have done. The truth is, I think about him a lot. I sometimes initiate contact with him, but he will never initiate contact with me. I know I need to let go, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever forget him. After all, I love remembering…

If you have any questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca. Thanks as always for reading!

AskMiriam About Sex

Question: Do you need to have feelings for someone before you have sex with them?

Answer: Sex is a funny thing in our society and just in general. People have many different reasons for doing it. There have been times when I have had sex just because I was very horny. I will admit that there have been times where I didn’t really care who I had sex with and consequently, I didn’t have to have feelings for them. However, I don’t feel like that now. When Ben and I have sex, it means something to me. It’s very pleasurable but it also expresses how close we are. He and I live in different places, so there are times when we both want to have sex, but we can’t do it with each other. Polyamory allows us to have sex with others and it will always be different from how he and I have sex. I appreciate variety in my life, so I enjoy it, but sometimes I miss having sex with him when I’m having sex with someone else. For example, I was at a sex club recently and I had sex with another guy. After he and I finished up, he left. I pretty much always want to cuddle after sex and Ben always gives that to me. That guy did not cuddle with me and I felt a little lonely afterward. I happened to be at the club with a friend of mine and she and I cuddled, which was very nice. 

With regard to sex, everyone is different and that’s what makes sex great. You, dear reader, may find that you can have sex with someone without having feelings for them. You may also find that you really like someone and you want to have sex with them. I try to have sex with people who I feel are good. Even if we only have sex once, I want both of us to have a good time and to care about each other, at least for that hour or however long we are together. That can usually be accomplished by asking the other person what they like and I always ask for someone’s STI status. It’s important to know who are getting into bed with. And finally, dear reader, you will find that there are times when both you and the person you are with are horny and you may both not have feelings for each other – that is okay. Sex is a need for most people and when you can be upfront and honest about it, you will be better… off.

Gender and Communication

I had an interesting exchange yesterday on my way to work that helped inspire me to write this post. I’m an avid cyclist and someone else was cycling behind me. He passed me and then we came to a red light. He turned around and said, maybe I shouldn’t have passed you, now we’re at this red light. I said to him, yeah and you don’t get to look at my ass. He said, I appreciate your refreshing candour. We ended up having a very pleasant conversation and exchanged emails. 

In our society, there are lots of double standards when it comes to gender and I think communication is one of them. This is definitely something that can affect relationships of all kinds. Women can get away with saying many things that men can’t. If a man hits on a woman in a crass way, women tend not to respond. On the other hand, if women hit on men in a crass way, many men would respond. When it comes to non-monogamy, I can do something like propose a threesome to 2 guys and they will usually say yes. If a man went up to 2 women and asked if they wanted to have a threesome, the answer would usually be no. Women are not expected to be so open and direct; it’s one of the reasons why I like being that way. I encourage women to be open about how they feel. I would encourage men to do the same because men are often taught to hide how they feel, perhaps even more so than women. However, there are many men who don’t know how to express their affection for someone in a nice way. A male friend recently told me that he asked people for their permission to flirt with them- I really like that approach.  

If you are a man who likes women, remember that women get hit on all the time. Using a bit of delicacy is called for. We don’t just want to be told we are good looking. Personally, I think you can start by saying ‘hi’ and getting to know the person- those are both very attractive and will win lots of points. Once you get into a relationship, you will know better how your partner likes to communicate and how best to communicate to them. I do think that openness is very important- whether it’s good or bad, your partner wants to know how you feel, so just tell them. 

AskMiriam: Becoming Poly

Question: What is the one piece of advice that you would give to married men who are interested in exploring polyamory?

Answer: It can be difficult to know how to start being poly. I can’t really come at it from the perspective of a married man, because I’m not one, but I can share what it was like for me at the beginning. Back then I was completely single, fresh out of an 8.5 year relationship. I expected it would be very difficult to meet people who were either a) poly or b) okay with me doing it. However, I joined a group (now called Polyamory Toronto) and I met lots of people there. They gave me advice, resources, and I had relationships with people in the group. You can also join OkCupid and meet people that way – OkCupid has an option where you can tell people you’re in a relationship, but that you also date others. Polyamory is becoming increasingly popular: it’s been in the media, on the Internet, etc. Every day, more and more people join Polyamory Toronto and other groups. Once a month, you can attend the Ethical Lovers’ Group at UofT where you can ask questions about polyamory and other types of ethical non-monogamy. So, finding people is really not that hard. You just have to put yourself out there a bit.

What I didn’t anticipate when I became poly was the emotional side of it. You will experience emotions that you perhaps never had before. You might find yourself becoming jealous even when you didn’t think you were a jealous person. You might see your wife flirt with other people and feel left out. When I first became poly, I did have those emotions and I mainly overcame them through a healthy sense of self and lots of communication with parthers. I also felt euphoric; I felt like I should have been doing this my whole life. That is of course a wonderful feeling, but you will come down from that high at some point, so prepare yourself for that. The number one thing is, check in with yourself and your wife. If both you and your wife feel that what you are doing is right, awesome! If not, you can go back to the drawing board anytime. The first rule of polyamory: communicate, communicate, communicate – in this case, with yourself and your wife.

Polyamory can be both a wonderful and at times hellish journey; remember that everything including bad feelings can be magnified when you’re with multiple people. Just remember, it’s usually more interesting than monogamy…

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