AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

Polyamory and Bisexuality

Lately Ben and I have gotten into conversation about gender and sexual orientation. I expressed that there seem to be so many poly bi women, but there are so few poly bi men. I often wonder why this is the case. In our society, I think women tend to question their sexuality more. Ben said, perhaps female hormones lend themselves more to bisexuality. Then there was my gay father who said, there’s something about having a penis that makes you feel really sure about your sexuality. I also think that straight men have a lot of privilege so it’s not really in their interest to question their sexuality. Personally, I don’t like to label myself as bisexual. In 2012, I read a book about the fluiditiy of female sexual desire by Lisa Diamond, a psychology professor in the US. She had many different categories for female sexual identity. One category was, attracted to the person, not the gender – that’s definitely something I identify with.

I don’t like to put myself in a box. Over the years, I have felt myself attracted to women. When I was with my first serious boyfriend, I remember seeing an attractive woman on TV and feeling aroused. I thought to myself, am I lesbian? That boyfriend and I broke up soon after, mainly because I was starting university and I wanted to see what else was out there. In my first year, I didn’t get to have any experiences with women and I regret that. I also had the opportunity to see a therapist and didn’t take it. Then, in my second year, I started dating my ex and we ended up being together for 8.5 years. About a year and a half into dating, I went on a road trip with a female friend. We drove to a conference in Vermont and then ended up staying overnight in Montreal. On the way to Montreal, my friend I talked about not having any experiences with women – my friend was interested in exploring that. I told her I would kiss her. When we arrived in Montreal, I called my ex and asked him if it would be ok. He said he thought it was fine. I did kiss my friend and I enjoyed it.

Since I have become poly, I have only dated 2 women, and they were both for brief periods. I have had sexual experiences with women and had a good time. I find it difficult to meet women who I’m very attracted to. I also find that I can relate, in some ways, more to men. Some people have labelled me as a man with a vagina, whatever that means. I like having both a masculine and a feminine side. I don’t like shopping and I hate the typical way some women behave – it can be very passive/aggressive. I’m usually direct and I talk about sex – those are often classified as masculine behaviours. I also feel that sometimes I need to toe the line between being more masculine or more feminine. For example, I feel that I can’t wear very masculine looking clothes because what comes out of my mouth is masculine enough. I also like wearing things like dresses, especially in the hot summer. I tend to sweat, so wearing sleeved shirts can be uncomfortable. I also like shocking people because I look so normal and then I say weird things.

In any case, I really want to know what it would be like to have a female partner for a longer amount of time. I’m not sure if that’ll happen in Asia, but who knows. Perhaps I would stop debating my identity so much if I was with a woman. I could express different sides of myself. Of course, this is a reason to become polyamorous. Not only do we get to date lots of people, we get to explore how we are as people.

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AskMiriam about Friends with Benefits

Question: I am currently interested in exploring polyamory as a single female, not interested in finding a primary partner. I posted an ad online the other day and was bombarded by emails from amazing sounding guys who were also interested in a more serious FWB situation. I am looking for someone who is interested in being friends first, who wants to connect in an affectionate, sensual, and sexual way on a semi-frequent basis. At first I thought I wanted just one or two FWBs to start my journey with, but I have met three in the past week and have connected with all of them, and amazingly enough each one of them brings out strikingly different aspects of my personality, and I am very interested in pursuing all three relationships to not only explore how different I am with each of them, but also because I am very attracted to all of them mentally and physically, and we share great chemistry so far.

I am still in the early stages of figuring things out with these guys but was curious:
1) Do you have any advice on how to develop and maintain each relationship?

2) How I should approach discussing my position to them each(should I disclose that I have other FWBs, even though we are agreed to be non-monogamous FWBs?)

3) What kinds of boundaries are good to have? I know that each relationship is different and have read the Ethical Slut but I am curious if you have any specific advice for this particular situation, or what works for you with your lovers.

4) How do I explain these new visitors to the relative that I live with? They are obviously romantic encounters(meeting at night, sharing wine, sleepovers at times) and there are 3 different guys(at the moment, I may explore more but I’m not sure). How can I make the idea of polyamory seem normal and acceptable to someone who is older and has not been exposed to the new poly/sexual revolution?

Answer: Thank you so much for your question! Let’s take these one at a time. In terms of the first question, that will be totally up to you and the other person. In my experience, once you become intimate with someone, you may develop deeper feelings than you originally thought you would. Also, depending on the frequency you see them, you will probably feel closer to them over time. You may like this or you may decide to pull back a bit. As long as you have open communication with your FWB, you should be fine. That’s the emotional side of it.

On the physical side, I would recommend you get tested for STIs before embarking on this journey. I would also encourage your FWBs to do the same. I would want to make sure everyone is clean before you begin developing the relationships. You may find that if you are having sex with 3 people, again depending on the frequency, you may get a bit worn out. If you’re having sex with each of them once or twice a week and some amount of penetration is involved, that’s quite a lot of stimulation for your vagina. Start off slowly and see how you do. I had a 2 month period where I was involved with 3 guys and it was wearing physically.

Question #2: I would definitely encourage you to tell each FWB about the other FWBs. If not for anything else, you can see how committed they are to you and to the idea of non-monogamy. Let them know that you really appreciate what they give you and that you value what you have together. I think they will definitely like the fact that they are being kept in the loop; if they don’t want to know about the others, I might stop seeing them because they might become more possessive. You should also let them know that you are committed to non-monogamy in general and specifically, polyamory. Tell them that you are open to seeing where things go with them; if something serious comes of it, that’s fine, and if not, that’s fine too.

Question #3: For myself, I tend to keep my boundaries lower because I am open to a lot of things. Most people however aren’t like me, so I would talk to people who have more experience with FWBs. Boundaries can be for the protection of your emotions or your body. If you, for example, want to explore things like BDSM, having boundaries is very important. You can include things like safe words. You might want to write down what you want to try and what you don’t want to try and share those with your FWBs. Even if you’re not doing anything like BDSM, I would encourage you to write down things you’re open to and things you’re not. This will be a good exercise to think about what your boundaries are. You can also just try different things and see if you like them or don’t. One thing you may want to think about is fluid bonding – if you find, in the future, that one or more of the relationships becomes serious, you may want to have unprotected intercourse with one of your FWBs.

Question #4: This can be a tricky situation because you are living with them. There are many cases where, for example, one partner wants to try polyamory and will give their partner The Ethical Slut and/or the book Opening Up and then they can have a conversation about how to open their relationship. I don’t know what your relative is like – they may be more progressive or more conservative. If you think they would appreciate reading those books, you can give one or both to them. You can also just sit down with them and tell them what your intentions are with the FWBs; if you don’t tell them, they will figure out eventually what you are doing and/or they will formulate their own ideas about what you’re doing, which is probably not what you’re going for. Fairly early on in my polyamory journey, I told my parents what I was doing. I’m pretty lucky because my parents are pretty progressive and though they don’t necessarily like what I’m doing, they accept it. Of course, all of this can also depend on your relative’s schedule; if they’re home when you’re home, it becomes more important. If they’re not home when you have FWBs over, it becomes less important. Some people decide to tell their families about their polyamory only when relationships become more established. In my opinion, the earlier you tell your relative, the better. As with your FWBs, they will probably appreciate being kept in the loop.

Thanks for your question! If any of you out there have questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca

What Makes a Relationship Work?

Lately, Ben and I have gotten on each other’s nerves. Many of you know that this trip to Korea has been a bit hellish and it seems like things have finally come to a head. Over the weekend, Ben and I were walking around Seoul and he felt the need to take out some of his aggression on a flight of stairs by stomping very hard down them. This caught me off guard and I asked him what was wrong. He said, “you know how you’ve been remarking that I’ve handled everything here very well? In fact, it has taken a toll on me.” I wasn’t sure what to say, but I felt upset. I want to know everything Ben is feeling and he hadn’t been telling me everything. Of course, that’s partly because he wasn’t fully aware of it himself. We all know the common saying, ignorance is bliss. However, in the context of a relationship, this isn’t really true, especially for a person like me. I want to be in the know and as my mother says, one of my best qualities is the fact that I can’t ignore things.

All of this led to Ben and I having a conversation about our relationship given everything that’s happened. We feel better that things have calmed down slightly and Ben apologized for taking some of his aggression out on me. We also talked a bit about what makes a relationship work and I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject here. First, there is attraction. We meet someone and we think, I want to be with this person. For myself, I need to be with someone who’s smart. We need to be able to have stimulating conversation otherwise I won’t be interested at all. I’m usually not so concerned about what they look like because I’m attracted to different body types; they just need to have good character and a good heart. I will say I have a penchant for taller people with glasses and blue/green eyes, but I have dated others that look different from that. Second, communication. We need to keep each other in the loop about what we’re feeling and what we’re doing. This is especially important in the context of polyamory because we may have other partners and I like knowing what’s going on with the other relationships. Ben and I are both pretty direct communicators, so that part of our relationship works quite well. We usually say what we mean and mean what we say.

Third, I think sex helps make a relationship work. I like to have sex fairly frequently and it should be fun for both people. Ben and I have had some problems in that department lately because we haven’t had our own space. We’ve been staying in hostels and with others and some people have had objections to us having sex, even when we were very surreptitious about it. One girl at the hostel we were staying at heard us having sex and cried for hours. She never approached us to voice her concerns, so we’re not really sure why she was crying. Of course, we are in a pretty conservative country and I realize people here aren’t used to hearing people have sex, but I don’t want to change my practices, even in these surroundings.

Fourth, alone time is very important. I love being with Ben, but this trip has been slightly suffocating because we are together almost all the time. Over the past little while, we have made efforts to have some alone time. I visited one of the baths in Seoul and had several hours to myself. I actually missed Ben during those hours, so that’s a good sign. We all know the old cliche, absence makes the heart grow fonder. I think that is often true when we love someone.

Fifth, dependability. We need our partners to be there for us. I have definitely felt that way here in Korea with Ben. Even when we’re dealing with immigration, a lack of alone time, and the fact that it’s very hard to meet people here, we can be there for each other. We can laugh and cry at all of the crap that’s happened to us. Through a lot of my poly life, I have been a secondary partner. There are plenty of benefits to being a secondary partner, but I have often wanted someone to be there for me and someone who I can be there for. With Ben, I always get that.

Those are just some of my thoughts on what make a relationship work. There are plenty of other things and it can depend on the nature of your relationship. If you have more thoughts, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca I always look forward to your questions!

Love in Translation

Ben and I are in Seoul right now. We decided to come here for various reasons. As many of you know, we had to flee Changwon, the city we were formerly living in. First, we decided to go south because Ben corresponded with someone on OkCupid living in Geoje City, which is just 2.5 hours south of Changwon. We spent the weekend there and got to go to the beach and the forest. Unfortunately, we were spending time with people who drank the entire night and that isn’t really our style, but otherwise, we had a good time.

We thought to come to Seoul because it seemed that we would get jobs in China and Seoul is much closer in that regard. We did indeed get hired by a university in China and are looking forward to that. We were also in contact with people on OkCupid from Seoul, including one who I will call Bryan. He is Korean and speaks English very well. Ben and I had to figure out where in Seoul to stay and Bryan said he could talk to his friend who knows about booking places in Seoul. We met Bryan 2 days ago and had a pleasant time. First we all ate lunch together. He was very helpful when we went to an Internet cafe to print off our Chinese contracts. Then he helped us move all of our luggage to a new hostel and took us out to dinner.

After dinner, Ben decided to go back to the hostel and I took a walk with Bryan. I should mention that during the afternoon, Bryan had told me he was interested in me and was affectionate. I was attracted to him too. We took a walk through Hongik University, close to the hostel Ben and I are staying at. While walking, Bryan asked me if I wanted to join him at a motel and I said yes. He asked me if I had any expectation in terms of sexuality and I asked him to clarify what he meant. He said, I feel like we have a connection, wouldn’t you agree? I said I felt like we had a bit of a connection and he felt turned off by that. I told him we didn’t know each other that well and I didn’t want to rush into anything.

Once we got to the motel, Bryan took a shower and I relaxed on the bed. Once sexy stuff started happening, it was fun and Bryan took his time, which was nice. After some time passed, he said to me, can I say something spooky to you? I said sure. He said, I love you. I asked him why exactly he loved me. He said, getting to have sex with someone like you is awesome. Now, dear readers, we can always separate love and sex. Bryan had given me the impression that he hadn’t had sex for a long time so I’m sure he enjoyed the intimacy. I do believe that one can fall in love quickly, but I think this was more of a case of lust… I’m not sure if we will meet again, but at the very least, we now have good stories to tell.

Ben and I will be in Seoul until next Tuesday. Who knows what adventures there will be until then… We have been invited to the country house of Ben’s interpreter at the immigration office in Changwon- she happens to be from Seoul and we met her on Monday. I feel very grateful for all the people who have helped us along the way on this trip! After staying at the country house, we plan to go to Hong Kong and stay on organic farms until we start working in China in October.

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

What’s Worse for a Relationship: Crisis vs. Stagnation

As many of you know, Ben and I are now living in South Korea. In case you’re wondering, we’re living in a city called Changwon in the south, near Busan, the second largest city. I wanted to relate the story of our first week here and how we got here, which I think illustrates that crisis is much easier for a couple to deal with than stagnation.

Ben and I were booked on a flight from Toronto to Daegu, in the middle of South Korea, via Shanghai. We were scheduled to leave on July 24 at 4:25pm. We got to the airport, care of a good poly friend of mine, and checked in. Sometime after 4pm, it was evident we were not going to leave on time. By the time 6pm rolled around, they told us the flight would be delayed at least until Saturday and possibly Sunday. They would be putting us up in a hotel. Ben and I ended up talking to travellers who also had other destinations to get to. The airline couldn’t give us any information about when we might get to Daegu and we weren’t sure what to do. In any case, we stayed in the hotel that night. The next morning, we woke up and went down to the lobby of the hotel. The airline staff were nowhere to be seen. We went into the airport and also couldn’t find them. We had to decide what to do because we had to arrive in Korea by Sunday night. We were able to find another flight to Tokyo and decided to take that. We knew there was a flight to Busan from Tokyo just after we arrived and were optimistic we could get on it.

After we arrived in Tokyo, we discovered the airline lost one of Ben’s bags. It took us awhile to talk to staff at Narita Airport and get that sorted out. Finally, we arrived at the next counter and booked tickets to Korea. I was going to take money out of my account to pay for my ticket to Korea, however the machine wouldn’t accept my card. We were running out of time. Next to the ticket counter happened to be another Canadian. He asked us what was going on and we explained the situation. He said, here, you can use my credit card. We were blown away by his generosity; a perfect stranger paying for my ticket! We did exchange contact information so I could pay him back later. I could have sworn that up until then, everything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong, and in fact, getting to Korea was the least of our troubles, I’m sorry to say.

Once we arrived at Busan Airport, we checked our email and found out that the director of our school would pay for us to take a taxi to Changwon. She was also going to put us up in a hotel that night near the school because we had to start teaching the next day. We were really jet lagged but managed to get through our first day. We did discover however, that our director was a pretty unpleasant person. She hasn’t trained us and expects us to read her mind. She has no qualms about barging into our classroom and speaking to the kids in Korean. She apparently has financial problems as well. She also hired an American of Korean descent to help her work with the foreign teachers;he was very pessimistic about Korean culture and had almost no backbone, so she stresses him out to no end. The teachers at our school were very confused about why we had come to work at this particular school because they all knew how awful it is. They also expressed surprise at how calm we were. We told them we were quite happy to be together, since our relationship has always been long distance, and happy to be living elsewhere.

After our first full day, we arrived at the apartment the school was giving us. It was evident that the director hadn’t bothered to check out the apartment and make sure everything was okay because the last teacher had changed the door code. The director contacted someone from the building who got us in; the place was a complete disaster. Obviously, we wouldn’t be moving in for sometime because the apartment had to be cleaned. We finally did move in 3 days later.

Throughout this entire time, Ben and I have kept each other calm. We’ve also been working long hours and have come home exhausted, not to mention jetlagged. We remark that if we were in this situation alone, we wouldn’t be sure what to do. Thankfully, we have each other and other foreign teachers to turn to; some of them live in our building, in fact. I remarked to Ben that this particular crisis is much easier to deal with than stagnation. As a relationship evolves, the people in it come to a point where things get boring and after 8 months, Ben and I haven’t reached that yet. This situation however allows us to strategize and bond. We are now trying to figure out a new job…

If you have any questions about any sort of relationship, send me an email to miriam@askmiriam.ca. Thanks as always for reading!

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