AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the month “October, 2014”

Finding Community

I’ve thinking a lot lately about how to create community. This is a conflict I often face as a poly person and as someone who wants to travel. Ben and I are now in Zhengzhou, China. We are quite happily working as English teachers at a university. We have a contract until June 30 of next year and we don’t think we’ll stay longer than that. We do like our jobs here, but the city is quite polluted and we’re living in the boonies. When I did my Master’s, I attended York University in Toronto, which is in the suburbs – I would compare our university to that. Over the weekend, I took public transit from downtown to where we’re living and it took nearly 2 hours. You, dear reader, can imagine that this isn’t exactly the spot we want to live in. However, what would happen if we formed relationships with people here? Those might be friendships as well as romantic relationships. Would we be more inclined to stay if we connected strongly with people here? That hasn’t happened so far and it can take a long time, but I do hope we form strong relationships here.

I have another friend who likes to travel and he has lovers in different places. There are many di1fferent types of polyamory such as ‘solopoly’ and I gave him the title of ‘travelpoly.’ Many of us have a strong urge to explore the world, especially being the open minded poly people we are. On the other hand, if we want to form multiple romantic relationships, it would do us well to settle down every once in a while, though not in the traditional sense of course. Ben and I were talking the other night about what we want our future lives to look like. We both want to live in a place where we can be part of the community; we may want to do something like grow fruits and vegetables. It can be very difficult to do both of those things in an urban area. In some cities, you can grow your own food, depending on how much space you have. However, the city  is almost always an anonymous place where you can get lost in the crowds. In that regard, it’s easier to be polyamorous and it’s easier to find likeminded people in the city because there is more of a selection. In certain countries, which are mainly in the West, being polyamorous is becoming more and more acceptable. Here in Asia, meeting such people is quite difficult. Given all these things, where can we find a community? You can also create your own community with all of the partners, friends, and family you have, but first you need to meet them. Living situations can be tailored to meet the needs of different groups of people. However, could this type of community exist anywhere in the world? Polyamorous people are still in the minority in every country. Our practices may not be acceptable to those living around us, but we don’t want to live in isolation. All of these issues are worth considering.

On a personal note, travelling has been a very important part of my life. When I was a teenager, I wanted to live in Europe. I’ve been very fortunate to live in England, Japan, and briefly in Germany. As a Master’s student, I studied the German anti-nuclear movement and specifically, why people protest. I got to travel around Germany in 2011 and interview Greenpeace volunteers. That was 1 year before I became poly. While in Germany, I got the chance to go to a conference in Istanbul and I met someone who was in an open relationship; I developed feelings for him. Thus, if I had never travelled, I wouldn’t have had the exposure to different relationship arrangements. I feel like travelling is a way to pay homage to the life I have now. I also find that staying in one place makes me feel stagnant; I always have the urge to explore. On the other hand, I still want to find community.

If you have any questions about relationships, please email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thank you as always for reading, from wherever you happen to be!

 

 

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Being There

Ben and I had a unique experience, especially within Vietnam, this week. On Monday, Ben had a date with someone just outside Hanoi that went very well. I have to admit that I was a bit jealous about it, but I was very happy for him. The woman is Vietnamese and I was scared that perhaps Ben would want to stay in Vietnam to continue seeing her, but he did assure me that was not the case; she was also interested in living in another country. 2 days after their date, we both went to see her. I was very curious to meet this woman because she seemed very genuine and she clearly really liked Ben; she had been sending him lots of text messages that indicated her feelings. Unfortunately, our meeting didn’t go very well. Ben had spoken repeatedly about me and about how our relationship works, but she didn’t seem to understand it. She was warm toward me and she brought her very cute daughter along, but the meeting felt very awkward. I don’t think she knew what to make of Ben and I and she didn’t feel comfortable being affectionate toward Ben while we were all together.

What sealed the deal for Ben was the fact that she assumed we would pay for everything. After the 3 of us went to karaoke, I asked her if she could help pay for it, since we all sang and had snacks there. That’s when she told us she didn’t have her wallet – we weren’t sure if she was forgetful or if that was purposeful. The price of the karaoke wasn’t that cheap, especially by Vietnamese standards, and given that we had all sung, I felt it was fair to share the cost. After we left, she told us that she needed to take a taxi back to her motorbike and she needed us to pay for that taxi. We felt very taken advantage of and decided we wouldn’t see her again. She did apologize for asking for the money to get back to her motorbike and explained that in Vietnam, men pay for everything. I asked her if that is also the case when women see their male friends and she said yes. Several hours after the date was over, she sent several messages to Ben saying that he had invited her to karaoke, therefore he should pay. Karaoke had merely been a suggestion on our part, not a given. She also assumed that we were earning lots of money and since she wasn’t earning much, we had the duty to pay. Ben told her we’ve been volunteering in Vietnam and that we didn’t have the means to pay for her all the time.

Ben was fairly upset after all of this because he initially really liked the woman. This leads me to discussing one of the benefits of polyamory : After a disappointment, you often have another partner or partners to help you get over it. I pride myself on being there for my partners and I was happy to console Ben. I also know that if I went through something similar, he would be there for me. When I started becoming poly, this is something I had never considered and I think it’s a definite benefit. Although there is potential for more breakups when you have multiple relationships, there is also potential for more comfort.

Thank you as always for reading. Ben and I are about to enter China – we’ll see what the opportunities are like there for polyamory… If you have any questions about any relationship, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca

Polyamory: Erasing Double Standards Everywhere

I’ve gotten into many conversations here in Vietnam about the existence of double standards between the sexes. Men are allowed to smoke, have lots of sex, and dress however they like. Of course, in many societies, the same trend exists. Even in Western countries, men have certain liberties that women don’t. Many remember the Toronto police officer who commented that women who dress in a certain way are sluts and are asking to be raped. As an extension, it’s fine for men to have as much sex as they want, but women are judged for doing so. Especially here in Vietnam, many women feel that they need to remain virgins until they get married. I don’t think men here appreciate the pressure women are under to maintain a certain image. Polyamory erases those double standards. Men and women are equally allowed to date and have sex with whomever they want. In fact, women are often encouraged to do what and whomever they wish. If only this were the case in all relationships and societies…

Ben and I thought we’d be leaving for China this week, but that has been delayed to next week due to the Chinese embassy in Hanoi being closed, barring us from processing our Chinese visas. On the upside, that means we can continue seeing some people in Hanoi and meeting new ones. Recently, Ben has been in touch with many people who are interested in swinging and we met 1 such couple yesterday. I was very surprised that the supposedly straight woman was making eyes at me, though she didn’t seem that comfortable with Ben. The man was definitely interested in me. We had a pleasant conversation, centering around culture and travel. However, once that got tired, I felt like we were all just beating around the bush, so to speak. I asked the couple if they were interested and the man told us that the woman was a bit uncomfortable and needed time. Ben and I were a bit disappointed, but at least, we got to go home and have sex. Right after orgasm, the man called us and told us they wanted to see us again that night; the woman had changed her mind. Ben and I were very surprised, but went out to meet them. We found a hotel that would accomodate us. I can’t even imagine what the hotel receptionist thought we were doing, as we booked the room for 4 hours. Regardless, we all had a really good time. Ben and I haven’t had any sort of group sex since we got to Asia, so it felt very overdue. The woman had initially been nervous because she had never been with a white man before, but she really enjoyed being with Ben and I enjoyed being with the man. We all enjoyed watching each other. I sincerely hope that we’ll be able to have such experiences in China, but at this moment, we have no idea…

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

 

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