AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the month “August, 2015”

The Scariness of Multiple Choice or Tools of the Polymath

Over the weekend, I took a class that should help me for the GRE, the American Graduate Record Exam. I’d like to do my PhD in the US, so I’ll need to take that exam in the next few months. The GRE has 2 verbal sections and 2 quantitative reasoning, i.e. math, sections. Now, dear readers, math has sometimes been the bane of my existence. When I was 15, I was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability, which among other things, affects visual-spatial reasoning. For something like geometry, my brain can’t cope. I get frustrated and I can end up crying. I was thinking about whether this might have any parallels with non-monogamy. During the class, I remembered that I can understand math sometimes when I see it in front of me, but I feel like I don’t have the tools to do it myself. In terms of relationships, we don’t always learn how to conduct them. The tools are available to us, but we may not know how to use them. For example, communication. Most people aren’t necessarily taught how to communicate well. Women are often socialized to be passive/aggressive and men might be socialized to be overly assertive. I think that communication should be a collaborative exercise where parties work together to achieve their goals, instead of people jostling for power. One thing we often face with communication is the fact that what people say is often more of a reflection on them than the people they’re talking to; we may end up taking some things personally when we really don’t need to.

In addition to communication, we aren’t really taught how to have sex. In normal society, sex isn’t really discussed. Teens don’t really want to get any sort of sex advice from their parents and sex education is often lacking. Once we have sex for the first time, we don’t really know what we’re doing. What would society look like if everyone learned important tools for having sex when they were younger? Instead, we now face ridicule for things like updating the sex ed curriculum in my home province of Ontario. Women are slut shamed. Men get to have sex with as many people as they like with very little reprimand. Few young people realize that they have options such as poly, though I think that’s changing with things like the Internet and other forms of media.

If we embark upon polyamory, we might have lots of choices. We can be with more than 1 person and we may decide we want to be with 1 person for every day of the week. The options can be dizzying and perhaps even frightening. As someone wise once told me, the more relationships you have, the more can end. I’d rather start things that have the potential to last for awhile and if we stretch ourselves too thin, our partners may feel unappreciated and we might be exhausted. The process of getting to know someone can be awesome, but also time consuming and once a relationship is established, it’s good to have the tools to make sure it has potential.

Thank you for reading! I’m happy to report I have a second date tomorrow with someone from OkCupid. We’ll see how that goes. Feel free to email with any relationship queries. My email address is miriam@askmiriam.ca

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On Not Caring What Others Think

Ben is now with me in Vancouver and we’re quite happy about that. It’s nice for us to get to be domestic together again. Aside from that, I’ve unfortunately had to deal with some family nonsense. Last weekend, Ben and I went to visit my grandmother, who has moved to BC from Quebec. She moved to the same city as 2 other family members of mine, whose identity I will keep secret. Until recently, she was living with them and that was difficult at times because one of them can be a rather taciturn individual. I will call that individual R and use the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’ in order to keep the gender a secret. R discovered my blog about 8 months ago and sent me a very disgruntled email. I had written about my interest in doing a PhD in order to study polyamory more in-depth. R wrote to me saying that I might as well do a PhD in being a couch potato because that would make just as much sense. R also wrote that I was disgracing the family because I use my name on the blog – forget the fact that I don’t use our last name, so people who don’t know me personally can’t trace my family through my blog. I sent R a rather diplomatic email back, but never heard back. I don’t really care what R thinks because we’re not close, but I was concerned because my grandmother was living with R and R definitely shared how they felt with my grandmother. When I visited my grandmother 2 years ago, I had tried to explain poly to her, but she didn’t really get it. After the nonsense with R, I was very happily surprised when my sister actually stood up for me and explained to my grandmother that I wasn’t cheating on Ben. When Ben and I actually saw my grandmother last weekend, she said she doesn’t care about how I live my life; she’ll always love me. Before going to see her, I sent a cordial email to R saying that Ben and I would be visiting that city and I asked R if they would like to meet Ben. R wrote back saying, not interested. I’m disappointed that R doesn’t really want to be involved in my life, but ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is the fact that another family member of mine isn’t talking to me and I’m close to them. I will call that family member S and use the pronouns they and them. S is someone I’ve grown very close to over the last few years. S is actually the only person in my family to have met the American, who got me into poly. I thought the 2 of them would get along, so I introduced them when the American visited me and that did go well. In terms of more recent events, S was going to contribute money to the wedding, but has decided not to because they think Ben and I shouldn’t be getting married right now due to our unstable financial situation. S also thinks that I should not be doing a PhD; I should focus on making myself employable in Canada. The irony is, one reason why I want to study in the US is because that will make me more employable in Canada. Universities tend to like it when you’ve studied in a different country because they want to have different perspectives contributing to the field. Also, PhDs in the US tend to be funded and there are people I want to work with there. I would very seriously consider doing my PhD at UBC because I really like Vancouver and I don’t have a huge desire to move yet again, but I need to know that it would lead to employment afterward and that I would be funded. Regardless, the situation with S is difficult because we are close. I care about what S thinks, but I’m not going to modify my life to suit S’s concerns. There is a part of me that thinks that S is afraid of being abandoned. They don’t like the fact that I keep moving and would prefer if I was in Toronto. The truth is, Toronto doesn’t feel like my home anymore.

In general, I think society often expects that women are going to adjust their lives to suit others around them. Women follow their partners to other countries because their partner has found a job there. Women give up a career they love to raise children while their partner continues working. Women may even modify their reactions to suit their partners. As a feminist, I refuse to change my life significantly to suit someone else unless I feel comfortable with it. I like pleasing people, but I also want to please myself. I was talking to a slightly older friend who told me that all of this gets easier with age. Women are respected more and taken more seriously as we get more grey hair. Thankfully, I’ve already started getting those…

If you have any relationship questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thank you as always for reading! I hope to blog more regularly from now on.

Settling into Attachment

This blog will be about 2 different things. Firstly, settling, by which I’m referring to the fact that I’m settling into Vancouver. As some of you might know, I’ve done my fair share of travelling and moving to new places. Unfortunately, it never gets any easier. I’ve been in Vancouver now for nearly 3 weeks. I feel lucky because I have family in the area and I have a few friends here as well. Nonetheless, it takes time to meet people and build a rapport. I feel lonely here sometimes. Ben is finally arriving on Thursday and we’ve missed each other quite a bit. I miss waking up next to someone and Ben is, quite happily, the person I like most waking up next to. I also haven’t had much opportunity here to cuddle with anyone, so I’m really missing physical touch. OkCupid has ever proved useful for dating, and I have met some people, but sparks haven’t really flown yet. To be honest, I’ve never had the best of luck with OkCupid. I find people on there who are very cool and I’ve definitely made one friend from there thus far, but chemistry is a difficult thing. It usually eludes me.

Now, some words about attachment. Before leaving Toronto, Ben and I bumped into an acquaintance of mine. I told her of my intention to pursue a PhD and do research on polyamory. She said to me, I have a topic for you. She’s considered being in poly relationships, but she has one main concern: the strength of the attachment. She believes that the attachment of a monogamous couple is much stronger than a polyamorous couple. I think she makes a fair point, but I tend to disagree with her. In a poly relationship, a couple encounters issues that a monogamous couple wouldn’t. In monogamy, jealousy is present, but it’s hidden away; poly couples have to deal with it openly and that can end a relationship. However, for the couples who succeed in dealing with jealousy, I think their relationship becomes stronger because they develop ways of communicating better (communication goes a long way in allaying jealousy, in this writer’s opinion). In addition, a monogamous relationship generally only has 2 destinations: marriage or a breakup. Poly relationships can change over time and parties need to agree to its terms before it starts, in general. It could be a D/s relationship, a purely sexual relationship, a purely emotional relationship, or anything along the spectrum. The parties in the relationship, I think, are more likely to sit down and talk about what the relationship will entail. There is, however, one thing that can be difficult in a poly relationship: since people are free to explore other bonds, they may decide to, for example, change their secondary partner to a primary partner and primary to secondary (to use hierarchical terminology that doesn’t always apply). Some people end all their relationships at once if one is going badly. These aren’t necessarily responsible practices. As someone has joked before, poly people sometimes end up talking more about sex than actually having it. However, I do think that communication is often stronger in poly relationships and that makes relationships have more secure attachments.

This weekend is Pride in Vancouver and I’ll be marching tomorrow with VanPoly! I look forward to meeting more poly people here. If you have any relationship queries, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca. I look forward to your questions as always.

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