AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the month “July, 2014”

Gender and Jealousy

I have written about jealousy before but it seems to be the topic that never goes away, so I felt compelled to write about it yet again. Over the weekend I went to a couple of poly events and I was asked repeatedly, do I get jealous? The answer is, well yes. The relationship between polyamory and jealousy is an interesting one. In some ways, we have more opportunities to be jealous because we might see our partner(s) with other people and feel jealous. We might hear our partner(s) talk about experiences they’ve had with other people and feel jealous. In monogamy, jealousy gets swept under the rug. Some people feel it shouldn’t even be discussed. I don’t think that’s a particularly healthy way to deal with jealousy and personally, I can’t sweep things under rugs.

I like talking about things and jealousy is sometimes one of those things. I feel that actually talking about it is the better thing to do because you can get to the root of why you feel that way. I think jealousy does come from a deeply ingrained place and we started learning about it as children. I think nearly everyone has some experience of abandonment in childhood and when you become an adult, it’s normal and sometimes healthy to feel that your partner may abandon you. At the end of the day, we have to feel confident in ourselves and in our relationships. Most relationships will end at some point and it’s important to know we can depend on ourselves and our friends and family for support when that does happen. However, I think that few poly relationships end due to jealousy because many of us are able to ask for what we need. For example, the jealousy may indicate that you want more time with your partner. If you don’t share that with your partner, they’ll never know.

So, what’s the relationship between gender and jealousy? Last year, I attended an academic polyamory conference in which one of the presenters gave a talk on jealousy. She compared poly men and women with regards to sexual jealousy, meaning you’re jealous because your partner is having sex with someone else, and emotional jealousy, meaning you’re jealous because your partner is forming emotional bonds with someone else. I was surprised to hear that her sample of poly men got more emotionally jealous than the women. Many people think that women are more prone to emotional jealousy, but I also think that many men are taught to take care for their partners, so when they see someone else starting to fulfill that role, they feel jealous. On the other hand, women are often taught to keep a tight hold on a good man when they find one. For thousands of years, women had to depend on men for financial security, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t want their men shacking up with other people. However, given that more and more women are in the workforce, this is of less concern. Thus, I think you can see that the relationship between gender and jealousy isn’t so clear cut.

So yes, I get jealous, but I can deal with it. Communication and a healthy sense of self are important, though they take time to be developed. Usually I just need a bit of reassurance that I’m important to my partner. I do believe though that having metamours (when your partner has a partner) has more benefits than drawbacks. As I mentioned recently, Tony and Ben get along and that makes me really happy. Awhile ago, Ben was dating someone and the 2 of them made a cake for me. I have to say, having metamours is pretty sweet…

If you have any questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca Ben and I leave on Friday afternoon for Korea. Either before then or during our long plane ride, I will write a blog on saying goodbye, an important part of most relationships.

Why (and How) We Fight

Ben and I had a very interesting experience a few days ago. I should say it started out in a very challenging way. As many of you know, Ben and I are moving to South Korea. My dad is letting me store things at his place while we are gone. This past week, we brought some things over to his building and agreed to meet at a certain place. Ben and I waited for my dad and he didn’t appear. I suggested to Ben that he check upstairs. We were in the second basement level and he went up to the first. I thought I heard he and my dad talking, but I guess my mind was playing tricks with me. A few moments later, my father appeared and was upset because he had been waiting for awhile in a slightly different location. I had apparently misunderstood where to meet him. I was nervous because Ben didn’t appear and my dad and I trudged off to his storage locker to put away my things. We put my things away and found Ben. My dad was still upset at the end and we left feeling irritated.

After that episode, we were on our way to Tony’s house, who had agreed to host us for a threesome and sleepover. Things were still tense with Ben and I in the car and we had to travel a good distance to get to Tony’s house. Ben was irritable and I told him not to get upset at me because I was also feeling sensitive after the episode with my dad. We found Tony’s street and then when I thought I was done navigating, I called Tony to let him know we were close and that we needed a place to park Ben’s car. In that brief phone conversation, Ben got lost, as Tony’s street curves a lot. We were able to find Tony’s house finally and parked the car. I went inside first and Ben followed, visibly despondent. I asked him if he was okay and he said that he felt I shut him down when I told him not to get upset at me. He admitted to me later that he expects navigators to know exactly where they’re going and in this situation, that was not the case. I explained to Ben that I had only been to Tony’s house once and had come from a different direction. Tony actually mediated us through this discussion. We successfully came to a resolution with Tony’s help, which was very heartening. This is another upside of poly- when multiple partners are around, they can really help. As a side note, since you’re probably all wondering, the threesome and sleepover were lovely and when we left Tony’s house, we felt good.

I have written previously that Ben and I have had some conflict. This has really been a growth experience for me because I hate conflict, but I want to be able to get through it in a mature way. In the past, I have always done what the other person wanted and ended up resenting them. I have expressed to Ben that he often takes things very personally and overanalyzes things. I also realize that I can take things personally. When you are in a committed relationship with someone, it’s very difficult not to take things personally because the emotional investment is often very high. After resolving our discussion, I realize that when Ben takes things personally, that doesn’t mean that I have to. Ben also said to me the day before we saw Tony that he can communicate things in a way that shows I’m not to blame. Thus, I think this is a case of meeting in the middle, and in a healthy way.

If you have any questions, send me an email to miriam@askmiriam.ca Ben and I take off for Korea on Friday July 25! We are very excited and nervous for this journey…

AskMiriam About Coming Out

Question: From the reaction of a friend I have realised how important it is to be guarded about who I decide to tell that I want to try becoming poly. If/when I have multiple partners, but I don’t want everyone to know, what’s the best way to handle this? Tell my friends that one person is my partner and the other a friend? Then how does it work with my partners’ friends, and what if they mix at some point or we have mutual friends? I don’t really like lying to people and I’m not very good at it, but I want to be cautious about who I open up to about my lifestyle. I would be grateful for any tips you have.

Answer: First of all, thank you so much for your question! I really appreciate it as always. You can probably tell from my blog that I’m a very open person. I’m out as poly to nearly everyone I know. In that regard, my answer to this question will be very biased. If and when you have multiple partners, I feel that you are doing a disservice to them by telling your friends that one is your partner and one (or more as the case may be) is just a friend. However, I do agree that in the beginning, you need to be careful about who you divulge to. I would start by telling your closest friends about your polyamory. Depending on what your family’s like, you may want to tell them, but I feel that you only need to tell family when it becomes more relevant (for example, if you wanted to bring multiple partners home to meet them). My parents are progressive, so I have felt comfortable telling them about multiple partners – they haven’t always accepted it, but they do not discourage me from doing so.

Another tactic you may want to try initially is talking to your friends about the concept of open relationships and polyamory. You can judge from their reaction what they think of it. You may also be surprised to hear that they know someone who’s poly or they themselves are poly too. I find that the more you open up to people, the more they feel comfortable opening up to you. Finally, I think it’s important to remember that if your friends, especially close friends, are dead set against poly, you may feel that you don’t want to be their friend anymore. Before I became poly, I would never, as an example, be friends with someone who was homophobic. I feel very lucky now because many of my friends are poly and I can talk to them about issues I’m having or about fun adventures. Depending on where you are, dear reader, you will probably find a likeminded community.

If any of you out there have a relationship question, send me an email to miriam@askmiriam.ca

The Importance of Laughter and other Notes on the Benefits of Poly

I have just returned from Montreal to Ben’s hometown in Eastern Ontario. My grandparents live in Montreal and we wanted to visit them for various reasons. My grandmother is planning to move to Victoria as soon as she can sell her condo. She’s giving away a lot of her things, so Ben and I went to stay with her and pack up dishes for myself, my mother, and my sister. I have never had the fortune to be in Montreal in July, which is when the Just for Laughs festival is on. I have seen Just for Laughs on TV many times and I’ve always wanted to go. Several weeks ago, I got a message on OkCupid from someone in Montreal and he seemed interesting. I told him we’d be coming into town and asked if he might want to go to Just for Laughs with Ben and I. Now, many of you know that I’ve had a penchant for getting involved with people with a certain name and the person in Montreal happened to have that name. A friend of mine said to me that the people I meet with that name have gotten better all the time, so I should meet him. That fellow got tickets for Ben, myself, and him to the festival. The show was very funny. Unfortunately, Ben and I both got colds just before Montreal and Ben’s was worse, so he didn’t come, but the fellow and I had a good time. I think the fellow is looking for direction in his life and I think I was able to help in that regard. I also definitely needed to laugh after spending time with my very sad grandmother, who lost her husband just over 2 months ago. Ben was able to spend some quality time with my grandmother, which I really appreciated. Just before Ben and I left Montreal, my grandmother and I had a very funny conversation that Ben walked in on. My grandmother is aware of the fact that I like women. She reminded me that I had told her about that 2 years ago. I told her that I still like women. Apparently 2 years ago I had said to her that sex with women is awkward. Ben walked in on this and we all laughed. My grandmother isn’t totally aware of my polyamory- I did talk to her about it last year and she didn’t seem to understand, so I thought it best not to talk about it this time. However, I have always been very close to her and I wish I could talk to her more about it.

Ben and I have spent a lot of time together over the last week, so I think it was good for us to be apart for a bit, thus I was happy to be at Just for Laughs and for him to be at home with my grandmother. I arrived in his hometown last Sunday and we’ve barely spent any time apart since then. We all need some amount of alone time and polyamory can allow for that. I will only realize that later because I’m an extrovert and I like being around people. Ben is a bit more of an introvert, so him having alone time when I’m out with someone else is sometimes a very good thing. If you’re a more extroverted poly person, you can plan to do things when your partner is out on a date and the distraction will be good. After all, we tick in different ways.

Another benefit of polyamory is the potential for more community. Last month I started seeing Tony and I’m happy to see that he texted Ben recently to say, if you ever need to talk, this line of communication is open. This is the kind of relationship I have always wanted. I have always tried my best to become friends with metamours (your partner’s partner/s), but I haven’t always seen that happen with my partners. If we can all support each other, jealousy will surely lessen and more friendships will develop. You also have the added benefit of being able to talk about your mutual partner and sort out any issues.

If you have any questions about relationships, send me an email to miriam@askmiriam.ca All posted questions are anonymous. Thanks as always for reading!

A Poly Emergency

The most important thing you should know regarding this post is that I’m an avid cyclist. I use my bike as my main mode of transportation. 2 days ago, I was hit by a car for the first time. I’ve been regularly cycling for about 10 years, so you can imagine my shock when this happened. I escaped with a scraped arm and a small bump on my head (I was wearing a helmet, but it came off). I was very lucky to be helped by 2 women who took me to my doctor’s office, which happened to be across the street from where the accident happened. My doctor wrote a note, which I took to the emergency room. The 2 women stayed with me until my mother arrived. My mom happens to work close to the hospital I ended up going to. I wasn’t horribly injured, but my mom wanted me to stay with her that night. I explained to her that I recently started seeing someone and I wanted to stay at his house. Her first reaction was, but you’re marrying Ben. Her second reaction was, does Ben know about this? My father had the same reaction when I told him about Tony last weekend. I wasn’t shy to tell my father about the birthday threesome with Ben and Tony, but I didn’t share this information with my mother.

Communication and consent are the cornerstones of polyamory. When the word polyamory was first created by Morning Glory Zell in the 1980s, the given definition was: The practice, state or ability of having more than
one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full
knowledge and consent of all partners involved. I bolded the words knowledge and consent because they are very pertinent, especially in this case. Yes mom and dad, Ben and Tony know about each other. One would think that my mom would be happy that I have 2 men to take care of me, especially when one lives out of town. I realize that I deprived her of the opportunity to take care of me 2 nights ago, but one would hope that she’d be happy that I have Tony around; Ben certainly was. After I left the hospital, I walked myself and my bike home. I got a few things, talked to Ben, and then Tony picked me up.

In the car to his place, Tony and I talked about our relationship. We’ve known each other for less than a month, but we definitely get along well. However, the circumstances are somewhat strange because Ben and I might be leaving soon to go overseas. I realize that I often rush things. I want to put a label on the relationship, partly because I don’t like the beginning of relationships; there’s a lot of uncertainty around how things will develop. I asked Tony if he might want to attend one of my ultimate frisbee games. The week after next, Ben will be in town, so the 3 of us could go together. I told Tony that I would tell my teammates that these are my 2 boyfriends. Then we got into a conversation about the term ‘boyfriend’ – I think it’s a very juvenile label and prefer to use the term partner. He said, that’s a very serious label since we haven’t known each other that long. Of course, partner can be an ambiguous term. In this case, I think I need to let go of my need for labels and just let this relationship be. After all, this is no emergency…

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