AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the month “November, 2014”

AskMiriam about Breaking the Ice

Question: If I am seeing someone, and I want to break the ice so to speak, or to tell her I really don’t mind if she sees other people. When is it too soon to tell her I am OK with it? If I meet someone that can’t understand, should I move on? Or try to convince them?

Answer: First, thank you for your question! This is always a delicate topic. For those of us who want to date more than one person, when is a good time to let that be known to a potential partner? And how soon do we want to know if they are okay with that and if they would do the same? (There are mono/poly relationships that work, where one partner sees more than one person and another remains monogamous – some work and some don’t, like most relationships in general).

Personally, I tend to err on the side of disclosing earlier. Here’s an example: last year, I met someone who I was really excited about. He had never been poly before. I met him at a party that I went to with someone I was involved with at the time, so when we met, he knew what my situation was. The new person and I had our first date several days later and it went really well. We had a lot in common and we got along well. He seemed to be fine with poly. The next day, I was over the moon and when I’m happy, I get flirty. I gave my number to 3 people. In the evening, I picked someone up and took them back to my place. The next day, I was helping throw a party for poly people and I invited the new person. Toward the end of the party, he told me he wanted to go for walk after the party was over; I could sense that things were about to end between us. Indeed, we went on the walk and he told me he didn’t think he could handle poly. I was really disappointed, but I will say that I’m very glad I found that out early on. If I had met him in a situation where he didn’t know about my relationship status and I wouldn’t have told him until, say, the 4th date, my hopes would have been even higher and I would have been even more disappointed.

In terms of people who can’t understand, you can try to explain it to them but be careful – there are times when poly is misunderstood and of course, everyone has a different understanding of what polyamory means to them. If you feel that they would be a good partner, come at it from an angle of dialogue. For example, you could ask them what they want in a relationship and if they describe some things that you are not into, you can tell them that they would be welcome to find it elsewhere if they choose. I think polyamory should be about freedom of choice – there are times in your life where you will only be involved with one person and if you enjoy that, great.  If you are doing something like online dating, many poly people let it be known on their profile that they are dating more than one person or that they would like to be dating more than one person. Some people are nervous to do that in case someone they know finds out. Being the open person I am, my online profiles show my relationship status. If people want to contact me, great. If not, I know that there are many people out there who would be keen to date me. Good luck out there in the dating universe, dear reader!

If you have a question, please email at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Later this week, I will be talking about some exciting stuff that is currently going on in my life. Stay tuned…

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Islands in the Stream

Remember that old Simon and Garfunkel song? I am a rock, I am an island. That song reminds us that humans are not islands. We depend on other people for many things like social interaction, companionship, etc. Unfortunately, when you’re in a couple, people treat you as if you’re an island. I often feel that Ben and I are not included in certain activities because we are a couple and people feel they should not disturb us. As if we need our alone time, all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with Ben, but we need friends just as much as the next person. Ben and I have remarked that if we had come to Asia as single people, we probably would have met more people by now and would have made friends more easily.

I think this can become a problem in any relationship, whether polyamorous, monogamous, or any other type. It can be very easy to depend on your partner(s) and everything else seems secondary. Over the course of my life, I have been as guilty of this as any other person. When I was in my second last year of high school, I started dating my first serious boyfriend. I had dated a bit before him, but it felt like my first real relationship. Suddenly, everything else seemed less important and I wanted to spend nearly all of my free time with him. Through high school, I had a best friend and I only realized later that I was excluding her from my life. As I have gotten older, I have tried my best not to do things like this. It’s important to me to have friends and I continue to strive for deeper friendships. Not to mention, I need time to do things for myself such as exercise, write, cook, etc.

One of the benefits of polyamory is that we can have more people in our life. We can have friends who we may occasionally have sex with. We may have a romantic partner who we don’t have sex with. We might have long distance partners who we trade emails with. All of these people enrich our lives in some way and there is no reason to exclude any of them. In some monogamous relationships, partners are not permitted to see certain people because it might cause jealousy, so dependence on each other may grow in an unhealthy way. Before I left Canada, I saw my ex of 8.5 years a few times, and his partner did not like that. I really wanted to be friends with my ex; we did share most of our 20s together and we were fortunate enough to live abroad. Just before I left, my ex’s partner was starting to accept the fact that we were friends and I was happy about that.

For the moment, I feel lucky to be in China with Ben. However, I find that I want more social contact and it can be difficult to do that in a country where you can’t speak the language very well. I am very much an extrovert and it’s nice to have friends you can count on. After all, we are not islands in the stream… Thank you as always for reading and if you have a relationship question, please email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca

The 100th Blog and Our Need for Commemoration

This is now the 100th blog for AskMiriam, which made me think about our need to commemorate important events. I am one of the biggest culprits in that regard. My mother teases me about celebrating “monthaversaries.” If I have been with someone for 5 months, for example, I’ll insist we cook a nice dinner or do something fun. Thankfully, Ben indulges me in this regard. Last Sunday, when we had been together for 11 months, we had a nice lunch out.

Why do humans have a need, especially in the context of relationships, to commemorate how long we’ve been together or the first time we’ve kissed? Personally, I think that commemorating things is important. We want to remember when something special happened. In some cases, we have a duty to remember something horrible such as a war. Perhaps our brains can make more sense of something when we feel the need to remember it again and again. Many of my readers know that a certain person from New York City helped me become poly. A few years ago, he and I were in Istanbul and stayed up all night on July 11. Every year since then, I often want to stay up all night on July 11; there is obviously a connection. 2 years after he and I met, I did stay up quite late after I had gone to a concert. I didn’t want to go to sleep afterward and ended up cycling around. There was a pop up clothing store open late and I talked to some people. One woman told me I have a good listening face, meaning I always look like I’m listening; that’s always nice to hear. I also talked to her brother who had an interest in the idea of friends with benefits. He came back to my place and we fooled around a bit, though he got upset when I didn’t want to have sex. I tried explaining that that was a compliment to him because it meant I wanted to see him again, but I never did see him again. Regardless, this shows how my need to commemorate a certain evening 2 years before led me to an interesting evening…

Of course, our need to remember also makes us think about the future. We can ask: where have we come from and where are we going? I cannot predict the future, so I cannot tell you, dear reader, what I might write about next week or next month. I hope to write about what it’s like to date in China when you have a pre-existing relationship. I hope to write about a fun threesome I had. I also hope to get more of your questions on relatonships (write to miriam@askmiriam.ca). At the moment, I am finding it hard to meet people here in Zhengzhou. I can easily meet students at the university I teach at and I can talk to other teachers, but our locale is isolated from the rest of the city. The fact that I only know a few things in Mandarin also presents a challenge. I am quite happy with my teaching and Ben and I are enjoying each other’s company. Let’s see how the other things go…

Culture, Politics, and Polyamory

Today I ask this question: Can certain political systems and cultures lend themselves better or worse to polyamory? I’ve been thinking about this because I’m now in China and I wonder if a more collective style of culture and politics would lead to more people being in multiple relationships. According to this website: https://sites.google.com/site/itsawomanschoice1/history-of-polyamory,  it has been common throughout Chinese history for men to have one wife as well as multiple concubines. For some nomadic Tibetans, it was common for a woman to marry multiple brothers, which is known as fraternal polyandry. However, since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, men have 1 wife and concubines no longer exist. Of course, China currently has the issue that the ratio of men to women is very unbalanced, due to the One Child Policy and selective abortion. Would it be advantageous for men to marry more than 1 woman? However, for most of the women, they would not abide by this and if the man had multiple wives, the woman should have the right to marry more than 1 man or to have multiple partners.

Although China is known as a communist country, it has been moving toward capitalism for many years now. Someone I spoke to labelled China a totalitarian capitalist state and I think most people would agree with that. Western countries have, for the most part, also embraced capitalism, which includes a belief in the scarcity of resources. Last year, I had the fortune to attend an academic polyamory conference in Berkeley and one speaker talked about polyamory in the context of scarcity. We have all been taught that we can only share so much; can we really share our love? In a time of crisis, which many consider us to be in right now, can we afford to share more? Personally, I think that if we moved toward more sharing, there would be less of a crisis. For example, a couple now in your average city, be it here in China or in North America, can barely afford to buy a house. Imagine if that couple was polyamorous and they both had partners; all parties express interest in living together. Perhaps the 4 could afford a house. If 2 out of those 4 decided to have 1 or 2 children, all 4 could share in the cost and effort of raising the child(ren).

Many people view polyamory as a modern Western phenomenon. What would happen if it spread all over the world? Although we are all from different cultures, we all want love, just like we all need shelter and warmth. I think the biggest obstacle isn’t culture or politics; it’s the perception of what polyamory means and the awareness that it is possible. Everywhere Ben and I go, we always get asked if we get jealous. Like many things, jealousy pervades every culture and it is not an easy issue to deal with because it’s not black or white. Jealousy is not wholly good or bad and it is possible to overcome. Now, if only I could explain that in Mandarin…

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