AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the month “December, 2015”

The Power of Confession

In my last post, I mentioned about someone I rode the bus with, after the poly gathering. He will be known as Nicholas and we’ve now seen each other a few times. This is his first poly relationship and I think he’s handling it pretty well; he’s expressed a desire to get to know Ben and he treats me well. On Saturday morning, I went with him to an event promoting an organization he belongs to. I know several people who have gone through their program and it seems to remake people’s lives. At the event, I talked to a woman who is going through their program and she asked me what I thought. I told her what struck me the most was the show of emotion when people talked about their lives and how they’ve changed as a result of the program; this got me thinking about the power of confession.

In our culture, we often speak about ‘coming out,’ especially when you live a life that goes against the norm. We construct a need for gay, poly, and other non-normative people to come out and confess their secrets. One consequence of this is that people who lead seemingly ‘normal’ lives don’t necessarily get that opportunity. In normal conversations, people don’t often confess an aspect of their life that the other person wouldn’t know, unless they asked specifically. This can occur in every type of relationship, including intimate ones. Why is it that non-normative folks need to come out when so-called ‘normal’ people don’t have that chance?

Ben and I often have conversations about labels, which I think feeds the need to come out. For me personally, I don’t like labelling my sexual orientation. Part of it is that I don’t like the word ‘bisexual’ and ‘pansexual’ just sounds odd to me. I don’t like calling myself ‘queer’ because I’m already weird. I also protest the fact that we have a need to label the person standing in front of us. Ben argues that labels should be descriptive, not prescriptive. What I feel is that labels in fact *are* prescriptive. We assume that gay people are a certain way, that poly people are a certain way. We also still assume that women love shopping and that men love sports when different people enjoy different pastimes.

For us polyamorous folks, I think many of us want to confess to our friends, family, and co-workers that we have more than one romantic relationship, but we fear the consequences. Some of my family members feel uncomfortable because of how public I am about my relationships and sexuality. Currently, I’m in Victoria, BC, where my grandmother, aunt, and uncle live. I went for a walk yesterday with my aunt and she told me that my uncle doesn’t think that his niece should be so public about her sex life. On the other hand, many people have commended me for my courage. For myself, I want people to know that there are poly people out there and that they have a choice when it comes to relationships. I don’t think poly is for everyone, but I think that if people want this life, they can have it. We just need to have a space in our society for people to confess if they wish to, and not be judged for it.

If you have a relationship query, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca To those of you who celebrate Christmas, merry Christmas! I hope my readers and their loved ones enjoy this holiday season. Ben and I are going to Washington state on Thursday and we greatly look forward to it.

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My Alterations

It’s been a very long time since I wrote a blog. Nothing has gone up on this site since the end of September and I feel a bit bad about that, but truthfully, life has been too busy; I’ve barely had a day off since that last blog. School has been quite taxing and on top of it, I work as a research assistant and a tutor. Going back to school is always difficult. Between my undergraduate and Master’s degree, I lived abroad and worked for 4 years. That first semester back at school was very hard for me. And it’s never just  the fact of school being hard; it’s the fact that relationships suffer because of it. Dear readers, I have honestly been depressed and that hasn’t really happened since I was 15. At that time I wondered if anyone would care if I just disappeared. It wasn’t about killing myself but I guess I wasn’t feeling very loved or appreciated at the time. Part of the reason I’ve been feeling that way recently is because I don’t know many people in Vancouver. I have made some friends, but it never feels like enough. I dated a bit but nothing has gone anywhere. Of course, I’m lucky to have Ben, but being an extroverted person, I need more people in my life.

At the end of my 15 year old self being depressed, I told myself that I would be relentlessly optimistic and wouldn’t let anything get in my way. I guess that period lasted about 17 years and now I feel like I have to tell myself something else. I can’t really be relentlessly optimistic anymore, not necessarily because of my own life, but because of how the world works. At 32, I feel much more confident in myself than I did at 15; I feel like I can achieve what I want and I know how to ask for support along the way. The problem is, I know too much about how the world works. Asia certainly didn’t help; going through what we did in Korea and dealing with China was certainly a trying experience, to say the least. Ben and I also had to figure out how to live and be together without smothering each other.

Now, at the very least, Ben and I are in therapy, and it does make us feel closer. It makes our problems seem more manageable. The hard thing is that both of us are holding on to old baggage; everyone does. Some of that makes Ben angry and some of that makes me upset. The trouble is that it also makes us who we are. What we need to figure out is how to deal with it properly so that we can be together and be happy. With all of this, I feel like I’m altering myself and I don’t feel that as a negative thing. I feel like we get few opportunities in our lives to really remake who we are. Now I want to remake myself into someone who won’t deal with any bullshit. Of course, we deal with some in our daily lives but I want that to be with my own consent and not just to make the other person happy.

I actually got to practice that last week. I went to a poly gathering last Friday in Burnaby and then took the bus home. I had been on the bus with someone else from the gathering and we had a pleasant chat until he got off. When we passed through downtown Vancouver, a very classy looking woman got on the bus with a nice coat and a short dress. Later, a guy got on and sat across from her. I was sitting right behind him, so I could see everything he was doing, including taking a picture of the woman without saying anything to her. I was debating saying something because I was in that situation in China many times and I really didn’t like it. I decided I would speak up. The guy got off just before I would and as he rose from his seat, I told the woman that he had taken her photo. He was shaking and explained he liked her coat. She said, well, you didn’t have to take a picture of my face. Can you delete the photo? He did indeed delete the photo, but it’s possible that he had already sent it to a friend. I hope he thinks twice in the future about doing something like that.

I told the person who I had been on the bus with about what I did and he said, Miriam, you’re a frickin rockstar. He and I have been talking a lot since then and we’re going to see each other in 2 days. He actually enjoys talking on the phone and we’ve had long phone conversations. It seems like we have quite a lot in common and a good rapport, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him again.

Another thing that has led to this questioning of myself is something called vulvodynia, which simply means pain in the vulva. I’ve been dealing with this since about May or June. This has made sex rather difficult and has made me think a lot about my relationship to sex. I talk about sex… a lot. As you know, dear readers, I think that sex needs to be talked about more often in our society and I take it upon myself to let that happen. Since I’ve gone back to school, I’ve talked and read about a lot of sexuality related stuff. I’ve taken 2 classes on sexuality, one in the sociology department where I had the fortune to write a paper on poly, and one called Introduction to Critical Studies in Sexuality. Ben and I always laugh because that’s my CSIS class. Anyway, with all of this reading and talking about sex in class, I’ve barely been able to have any. Unfortunately, that can make a couple feel further apart. Ben and I still try to have physical intimacy, but intercourse has been almost impossible.

On the upside, I don’t feel as motivated by sex as I used to and again, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes I like it when sex is infrequent because it makes it feel that much more special. I also don’t feel like I want to be with more than 1 person because of the sexual variety. I think it’s important to be with people because of who they are, not just because you like fucking them. That all being said, I have the fortune to live in Vancouver and Vancouver General Hospital is running a Multidisciplinary Vulvodynia Program. I was accepted into it and my cohort will start the program either in February or April. The program is connected to UBC and the doctors involved have done research on whether the program has a positive effect on the participants; the findings show that it has. Since I’ve been taking a psychology class in research methods, I wonder how research actually gets conducted, but as a participant, I’m happy to know that the program helps.

Dear readers, I hope you’ve been able to read this entire blog; I know it’s a lot longer than usual, but there was a lot to say. As always, I appreciate having an audience. If you have any relationship questions, send me an email at miriam@askmiriam.ca

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