AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the month “February, 2015”

The Freedom to Feel

Before getting to the heart of this blog, I want to say one thing. On this blog, I will be writing about Ben and Eve as well as my own feelings about them. I want to acknowledge the privilege I feel to write about a relationship that I’m not completely involved in. Of course, Ben is my fiance and Eve and I are friends, but they are the ones who are romantically involved here. On this blog, I mainly want to write about my own relationships as well as give advice and in this situation, it’s a bit different. I will do my best to represent the situation as accurately as I can.

Last night, Ben, Eve, and I had a call that ended up lasting for 1.5 hours. I continue to be in Taiwan and they are in Vietnam. We talked about many different things including the strong possibility that Eve will visit us in China within 2 months. I think all of us are looking forward to the visit, but we also feel nervous about it. Ben and I have a relationship and Eve and Ben are developing their relationship, but the dynamics between 3 are hard to predict. One of my concerns is that I will feel left out in my own house. Groups of 3 have often made me anxious because one person can often feel left out and I don’t want that person to be me. In Zhengzhou, our city in China, there aren’t many places for us to go and just hang out with other people. We are generally at the university teaching and doing other things, eating out in our neighbourhood, or at home. If I want to give Ben and Eve some alone time, that may be difficult to do. That being said, Eve will probably come for 5 days, which isn’t an inordinate length of time and I do think we’ll all get along. Eve said she’s happy to have me as a friend. She has already opened up to me a lot, which has really impressed me; it shows me that she speaks our language. She’s unsure of her feelings toward women at this point and I would never push anything with her, but if it were to develop, I don’t think either of us would be opposed to that.

This situation is new for all of us involved. After talking to the 2 of them last night, I think I was feeling some jealousy and envy as I watched them cuddle on the hotel bed. This situation is even more foreign to Eve who hasn’t been in that many relationships, let alone a non-monogamous relationship. Since Ben and I got together, neither one of us has had an additional serious relationship, so this is new for him too, though he acknowledged to me this morning that he has the easiest time emotionally in all of this; after all, he has 2 women who feel strongly about him. Ben and I also said this morning that we don’t want their relationship to impact ours. We would like to acknowledge that both relationships are unique and that we can all contribute to their success.

Feelings can run high in this sort of situation and as I said to Ben, there are many forces at play here that we are all unaware of. In many societies and depending on the family, we often do not talk about how we feel. I was raised by social workers and was often asked how I felt about things, so I’m an exception and I do feel lucky for that. I think that all 3 of us are fairly emotionally aware, but we all have baggage that affects how we feel at present. If one goal of polyamory is open communication, we can acknowledge how our past impacts our feelings right now. With our emotions invested in multiple people and depending on how much we choose to disclose, we may tell our partner(s) how we feel about other partners or express how metamours make us feel. I think that the expression of all these emotions makes us healthier people and better partners.

Thank you as always for reading! Ask me a relationship question anytime at miriam@askmiriam.ca I will be back in China on Monday and look forward to seeing Ben for the first time since January 20…

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Reaching Out and Tuning Out

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m currently in Taiwan and Ben is in Vietnam. Recently, he met someone I will call Eve and they’ve hit it off. I was very pleasantly surprised when I got a message from her on OkCupid and when she added me as a friend on Facebook. When my partner(s) get involved with others, I like to build relationships with them. It’s very rare that others have reached out to me first, so you can imagine this was a bit of shock, especially because Eve has never been involved in a polyamorous relationship before. I think she really understands how it works, though. We’ve started exchanging pleasant messages and I’ve even been informed by Ben that she writes poetry and is interested in exploring an attraction to women. It’s also very rare that I meet a fellow poet, so for me, this is all great. She and Ben are going on a little trip this weekend and will see how things develop. If things go well, she’s interested in visiting us in China, depending on whether she can get a visa or not. Diplomatic relations between Vietnam and China have not been the best recently, so it could be difficult for her. Now, this isn’t to say my feelings about Eve have been entirely positive. Ben told me he hasn’t been attracted to someone as strongly as he is to Eve since he met me, which could be constructed as a threat to our relationship.

One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is how women are programmed to act in relationships. We are often taught to find a man (forget what your sexual orientation may be…) and hold on to him as tightly as possible. We should be jealous and protective when another woman comes along because she might steal him away from us. If we have children with said man, we have to depend on him and keep him from being attracted to other women. Of course, these are all outdated ideas, but they are still present in our society today. I don’t think Eve would steal Ben away from me for a few reasons: Ben and I are as committed to each other as anyone can be. I don’t think Ben would allow someone to steal him away from me. It would also be against Eve’s interest to do so if she wants to build at least a friendship with me. It does seem like she’s coming into polyamory in the spirit of friendship, so I have no doubt she would betray me in some way. There is also the question of whether she would live close to us. She is interested in doing a Master’s and that could be in Canada, so we shall see where this all goes. In the meantime, I’m putting myself into a mindframe of tuning out from the normal programming I mentioned above. As the old saying goes, if you love someone, set them free. I sometimes have the feeling that Ben and I only met recently and that our relationship is still fragile. I remind myself how much can happen in a little over a year…

Thanks as always for reading! I await your relationship questions, which are always posted anonymously. My email address is miriam@askmiriam.ca

On the Rarity of Connection

I write this blog post from Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. I just arrived here 2 days ago and I’ll be travelling around Taiwan for 2.5 weeks. Ben and I are continuing to travel separately; he’ll depart for Vietnam from the Phillipines later today. We continue to miss each other a lot, but are happy for this chance to travel independently.

One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is how rare it is to have a connection with someone. Over the years, I’ve often felt more strongly about people than they have about me and people are often aware of this because I’m very bad at hiding my feelings. I’ve also had the experience of being on the receiving end of strong feelings when I don’t feel very strongly about the other person. I feel lucky right now because Ben and I both feel very strongly about being together for the rest of our lives. However, it’s difficult to find other people, especially when travelling, who I feel so close to. Travelling makes me realize how finite everything is. This both excites and depresses me because I know that whoever I meet, I probably will never see them again. It makes me realize how precious and temporary everything is.

As polyamorous people, we seek out connections. We want to meet others, develop some sort of relationship, and grow from it. What do we do when we realize that connection is so rare? I used to feel like I could get along with almost anybody, but I realize that isn’t always possible. I may rub some people the wrong way and some people rub me the wrong way. There are times when I just want to meet someone and see where the relationship goes. There are also times when I want to be more specific about what I want. I think we can strike a balance between those 2 because I often just want to have company, especially when travelling alone. Over the long term, however, being more specific about what I want is more important.

Happy Commercial Love Day everyone! I’m not always the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day, but as someone who loves love, I feel the need to mention it. If you have any questions about relationships, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca I hope everyone can find meaningful connections, wherever they may be.

Swinger Culture

I’m now in Tokyo, having just arrived last night from Kobe. While in Kobe, I met someone off of OkCupid who I will call Steve. He’s American and lives in Osaka, which is quite close to Kobe. Steve had been in non-monogamous relationships before and wanted to, as he said, pick my brain about polyamory, which I was happy for. We had dinner together and talked about issues with non-monogamy. He also kept boasting about his oral sex skills. I had been up front with him about not being attracted, but I felt horny and he was keen to go down on me, so I agreed. We went to a love hotel and I have to say, he did have very good skills. He also told me about a swinger’s club in Osaka and I was curious, so we agreed to go the next day.

The club looks like most swingers clubs I have been to, just smaller. When you enter, there’s a small bar area. First we deposited our things in a locker and had a shower. Then we went to the bar and had some drinks. The bartender, as you may imagine, is pretty friendly. There was a TV with some music videos playing, so it’s a pleasant place to hang out. Of course, there is an area where you can have sex. There are some private booths, a couple with computers – not surprising, as this is the land of technology. Then there is a free space with 3 couches where you can do whatever you like. Single men aren’t allowed back there. If there is a single woman who’s interested in a single man, she needs to vouch for him and then they can go into the back.

Steve and I went into the free space and there were 2 other couples there. One couple looked very awkward, almost as if they didn’t want to be there. The woman looked pretty amused in her nurse’s outfit (you can either wear a robe or a costume- I chose to wear a robe) and the man just sat there with his arm around her. The other couple looked quite keen just to have sex with each other. I was interested in the woman, but the man didn’t seem like he wanted to share. Steve commented that some people might come to a swinger’s club because it’s cheaper than a love hotel or just because they wanted to be watched.

Much like other swinger’s clubs, the couples I saw there and the single guys that wandered in were a bit older. I’m glad to see that they are trying to spice up their relationship rather than cheat on each other, as cheating is rampant in Japan. According to Pamela Druckerman, the author of Lust in Translation (a very interesting book I read awhile ago), “Hints of Japan’s infidelity levels come only from the enormous size of the country’s paid-sex industry, which is famously frequented by married businessmen. A legal loophole permits a man and a woman to strike a private agreement for sex. Understandably, the state would rather not be confronted with the details (http://www.alternet.org/story/81022/lust_in_translation%3A_which_country_has_the_highest_rates_of_infidelity).”

It’s very easy in Japan for a husband to tell his wife that he’s working late when he’s actually having an affair. The wife generally won’t ask questions and she may even have an affair of her own. According to Japantoday.com, nearly 15% of housewives have also had an affair (http://www.japantoday.com/category/lifestyle/view/14-8-of-japanese-housewives-claim-to-have-committed-adultery). A lot of couples would rather stay in an unhappy marriage than have to endure divorce, for various reasons. I think that one of the biggest issues in Japan is the unwillingness to talk about sex. If there was more communication on that subject, many problems could be solved and perhaps, alternative relationship styles would be more acceptable. Until then, I think adultery here will continue.

I will be in Tokyo until next Thursday and before then, I’ll be meeting at least 2 poly people here, which I’m very much looking forward to. Then I head to Taiwan! If you have any relationship questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca. Thank you as always for reading!

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