AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the tag “China”

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Apologies for taking so long to write a new blog. I returned to Canada on June 30 and things have been either busy or I felt jetlagged. I’ve also been debating what it is I would write about. I settled on writing about the above quote from a mindfulness expert – something to make my mother proud, I suppose.

For myself, the above quote rings true. I have changed my location many times over the course of my life. I really don’t mean to toot my own horn here because I do feel fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to live in England, Japan, briefly in Germany, and finally in China. I spent most of my life living in Toronto, Canada and since I was a teenager, I wanted to at least try living somewhere else. I pictured myself in Europe, but I have to say that living in England wasn’t really my cup of tea. Germany was pretty good, but I was only there for 4 months and I’m not sure if I got the most accurate picture. Japan was very interesting, but I couldn’t see myself living there long term. And well, China is just China – it’s not an easy country to live in at all, from my own perspective. I feel lucky because living in different places has allowed me to adopt different personas, in a way. Each country has its own culture and it can be fun to adopt parts of that culture for oneself. Also, the experiences we have in different places shape us. In terms of this last trip, I feel like I learned to put up with less bullshit. I also learned that my health is very important. The issue now is, will I take those lessons and apply them to my life in Canada? I definitely intend to, but the end result may be different. Being back in Canada, I don’t necessarily feel any pressure on my health. I feel lucky to be back breathing fairly clean air and drinking water right out of the tap. I’m also back to cycling nearly everywhere and eating healthier food. I have to remind myself that there are still health issues I may have to deal with and those should be dealt with promptly. Thankfully, good healthcare is easily accessible here in Canada, at least for now.

Since returning to Canada, Ben’s mother and my parents all met for brunch. I think it went fairly well. Mainly, we all wanted to meet to discuss the wedding next year. It’s shaping up to be a very inexpensive wedding, which we’re all happy about. Ben and I have also discussed having another ceremony on the west coast of Canada before we have the wedding in Ontario in the summer. There are a few reasons to have a ceremony on the west coast: first, it would be beautiful. My grandmother is now living in Victoria, BC and I would really like her to attend. Finally, we could get legally married there, at Victoria City Hall for example. We didn’t necessarily want to get legally married in the past, but it may have some benefits in the future. I would like to do my PhD in the US starting next year and if Ben wanted to come with me, it may be made easier by the fact that we’re legally married. If he didn’t come with me, legal marriage would be one way for us to show that we intend to stay together despite the distance. There is always the possibility of Ben having a child with someone else, since I don’t want children. I’ve expressed that I might feel left out in that kind of situation, so the legal marriage would be a way for Ben and I to have another tie. This is a conversation we will continue having, especially since we have lots of time until the wedding. Personally, I don’t necessarily want the government knowing that we had a ceremony. Also, if we did decide to have a triad, for example, the third person may feel excluded. I’ve thought about trying to lobby for multiparty marriage, which would allow 3 or more people to get married. I still want to keep that door open. For the moment, I’m touched that Ben has offered that he’d like to be legally married to me.

If you have any relationship questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  2 days from now, I will be moving to Vancouver. I look forward to whatever awaits me there. The Vancouver polyamory scene looks quite promising…

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Goodbye China; Good Morning Vietnam

Ben and I are now in Vietnam, visiting Eve. Yesterday, he and I flew out of Zhengzhou. Unfortunately, our departure was somewhat unpleasant. Ben and I have been teaching at a university and were provided with an apartment just after we arrived. Yesterday, the apartment was checked to make sure everything that was given to us was still there. The woman who checked our apartment was supposed to arrive at 10:30am. She had also booked us a taxi to the airport for 11am. However, she didn’t arrive at the apartment until just before 11 and discovered that one of the items (a sheet) we were given was missing. Now, it is quite difficult to lose a sheet. We wouldn’t have taken it out of the apartment, so it couldn’t have disappeared. Regardless, we had to pay the equivalent of about $12 to replace it; not a big deal at least, but everything was so rushed. Thankfully, the traffic on the way to the airport wasn’t too bad and we went there with a very good friend, which was nice.

Ben and I flew through Guangzhou to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Our baggage was sent through to Saigon, but one piece didn’t arrive there. We had to spend a lot of time describing the luggage and filling out a form. Right before I wrote this post, the luggage did arrive, so we’re happy about that. Ben and I are also quite happy to be out of China. As soon as we left Zhengzhou, I could sense a change in Ben; he was suddenly much happier than when we were in Zhengzhou. I am very generous when I say that Zhengzhou is not the nicest place. At times, our relationship was strained just because we weren’t living in the place we’d like to. Ben and I are a bit sad to be leaving China though because it was the first place we really had a home together. After we return to Canada, it is quite likely that we’ll be living in different places. That being said, we’re still committed to each other. Recently, Ben’s mom has been helping us make arrangements for our wedding next year and we’re getting excited about that.

Here in Saigon, Ben, Eve, and I are all staying in a hotel together. I feel a bit sad because Ben gets to meet some of Eve’s family and I can’t attend. Poly isn’t really known in Vietnam and Eve’s family would not approve if they met me. I am happy that Ben gets to meet Eve’s family and that they get to have quality time together. At this point, the future of Ben and Eve’s relationship is so unknown; the time they get to spend together could be limited. Just over the last day, things have been good between the 3 of us and I anticipate that will continue. In a few days, we 3 are travelling to an island off the southwest coast of Vietnam. We shall all see what this vacation brings.

If you have any relationship questions, please email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca Cheers!

A Woman’s Right to Choose

This week, I want to talk about a subject that’s very dear to my heart: a woman’s right to choose whether she wants children or not. Last week, I had a bit of a scare because I should have been on my period and I wasn’t. Now, this sort of thing is not without precedent: I spent 4 years in England and Japan from 2006-2010 and during that time, I missed a number of periods. In England, I went to the doctor to inform them of that fact and the female doctor told me not to worry; it’s typical when you’re adjusting to a new environment. In Japan, I didn’t have periods for the first 6 months of my time there. Yes, I was adjusting to a new environment and I was also eating a lot of soy, which apparently delays the menstrual cycle. I thought about those times last week, but I also thought to myself, I’ve already adjusted to China, for the most part; why is it that I would miss a period now and not in the beginning of our stay here? Alex very kindly went with me to get a pregnancy test at a local drugstore. We returned to my apartment to find Ben here (I was expecting him to be out), and it was really nice to have both guys here while I did the test. Thankfully, it returned negative and we all celebrated with chocolate, hugs, and kisses.

The day after, I went downtown to visit Mily, which was very pleasant. She made a delicious egg cheese vegetable casserole and we had good conversations. At one point, I did make her cry though, as she talked about her past relationships and I told her that I think she’s scared to get hurt again. At that point, we were sitting outside, me eating ice cream and her drinking coffee. I told her that I’m still attracted to her and she playfully said, why don’t you move closer? She kissed me on the cheek and I returned the favour. I felt a bit self-conscious, but there was a part of me that wanted to kiss her on the lips again. After that, I got on the bus to go back home and there happened to be a family from Ecuador there. One of them actually asked me if I was pregnant and offered me her seat, saying I looked so tired. I said, well, that’s a funny story… Unfortunately, that night I dreamed that I needed an abortion and I was still in China. One doctor, who was white, accompanied me to a drugstore and showed me various implements I could use to perform the abortion myself. I panicked and asked him if he could help me; he said yes. Obviously, my mind is telling me I don’t want an abortion in China.

Nearly 3 years has passed since I myself had an abortion. At that time, I was with my ex-boyfriend and we were about to break up. I had debated for a long time whether I wanted children or not and I came to the conclusion that I didn’t, for various reasons. As an environmentalist, I think there are too many people in the world and we should be reducing the population, not increasing it. People tell me that my kids will be smart and environmentalists too, but there’s no guarantee of that. Plus, if we live in the first world, our environmental impact will necessarily be much higher. Secondly, as many of you know, I like travelling and I really enjoy my freedom. I don’t want the responsibility of caring for someone if I truly want to get up and go somewhere, especially for an extended period. Finally, I don’t really want to change my body. For the brief period I knew I was pregnant, I felt horrible. I know that the second trimester gets easier, but I don’t even want to wait the 3 months for that to happen.

At that time, I was very impressed with my ex because he did want kids and he encouraged me to get the abortion. Everyone supported me, though my mother apologized and said, I’m happy that you’re pregnant. She and my father did accompany me to the hospital and I was rid of the fetus. People ask me if it was a difficult decision; in fact, it was one of the easiest I have ever made. I had gone to the doctor several weeks before for another reason and I told them how I felt (reduced appetite and exhaustion). They told me to get a pregnancy test, which I did in the lab in that building. The next day, they told me I was indeed pregnant so I felt vindicated that something was indeed wrong. I was about to go to Europe for 1 month and I told them I needed to get an abortion quickly, which did happen. Just after I returned, my ex and I broke up, so I’m even more glad that I made that particular decision because the child would not have been well cared for. I am happy now that my ex is about to marry someone who does want children. In the future, Ben may have children with someone and my hope is that we would all live together and raise the children. I’m happy to be a part time mother because I think the relationship between parent and child is incredibly special; I still depend on my mother to this day and I’m very grateful to her. Finally, I’m glad that I had the right to choose not to have that child. Every woman should have the same right, whether they want children or not. We are continually fighting for women to have the same rights and opportunities as men and our right to choose what to do with our bodies is inherently part of that.

Thank you as always for reading. If you have any sort of relationship question, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca

The Best Kept Secret of Polyamory

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about, what I think, is the best kept secret of polyamory. Say you’ve been with someone for awhile and things have become monotonous in the relationship. This is inevitable, after the NRE (new relationship energy) fades away. It’s been said that NRE, the feelings that come when you’re excited about someone at the beginning of a relationship, can last for, at most, a few years. If you’ve been in a 10 year marriage, for the sake of argument, you may well decide to open up the relationship because you want the relationship to feel fresher or more interesting. Well, here’s the secret: Yes, you may be excited about dating and/or having sex with new people, but that doesn’t change the fact that your existing relationship still may feel monotonous. It doesn’t change the fact that you still may have problems in the relationship that need sorting out. Every relationship requires a certain amount of work to be put in and that will not change either. Also, I think one of the biggest issues with polyamory for people in very long term relationships is that you can be prone to seeking out too much variety. You may be with someone for a period and decide that you are bored, once the NRE wears off. Even if you have a great second relationship, you may end it so that you can continue to have variety.  I think this is fine with mutual consent, but there may not be mutual consent when one party ends the relationship for no reason. Here’s the truth: In the end, NRE, that amazing feeling, does go away. We are hopefully left with a feeling of stability, something to last us much longer than NRE ever would. As proud polyamorists, we need to take care of the people we love.

I have been feeling lately like things are starting to be a bit monotonous with Ben and we haven’t even been together for a year and a half. The truth is, the longer we’ve been together, the more attracted I am to him, but that doesn’t mean that the sex doesn’t become monotonous. We talked about that on Monday and agreed we need to spice things up a bit. Ben wants things to be more spontaneous, but the circumstances that would allow for that don’t really exist here in China. Our apartment isn’t really the greatest because it’s completely open concept, so it’s difficult to surprise each other. There is always the roof of a building or at a friend’s house, but those all seem a bit risky. Thus, despite the fact that Ben and I are both now involved with other people, we still need to work on our relationship to make sure it keeps strengthening. We have occasional challenges on that front, but on the whole, we are committed to each other and we want to make sure that our relationship lasts the ages. I dream of having a 50th wedding anniversary because I think longevity is one of the biggest challenges in a relationship, but I think it can be done.

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

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

Twas Christmas Day… and I got tested for STIs

Of all the possible days, yes, I got tested for STIs in Zhengzhou on Christmas Day. Being a Jewish person, Christmas has never mattered that much to me. I have definitely enjoyed sharing with significant others and their families, but growing up, it was never important. This being China, Christmas isn’t a holiday where people don’t work. I teach one class on Thursday morning, so I did that as normal and then hopped on a bus to the central hospital of Zhengzhou University. Amy, who I’ve previously written about, took Ben there to get tested several weeks ago. At that time, she forgot to bring her ID card, so she couldn’t get tested. Thus, she came with me.

As a Canadian, the Chinese healthcare system seems strange to me. When you enter the hospital, you have to get a health card and immediately put money on it. Ok, in many countries, you do have to pay, but in China, the thing that gets me is the lack of privacy. I was actually able to use Ben’s health card, which would never be allowed in many places. I didn’t have a health card and forgot to bring my passport, so they told me that using Ben’s card would be fine. First, we put a bit of money on the cards so we’d be able to talk to a doctor. Amy and I went up to see the female doctor and she confirmed that she could test us for everything we wanted. Again, this is a major lack of privacy. The doctor had no idea what sort of relationship Amy and I have; perhaps I was her foreign friend, perhaps I was a complete stranger. Regardless, we both had our vaginas swabbed, similar to the procedure when I get a pap smear, so not real pain to speak of. Afterward, we were given 2 tubes and 2 swabs that had what the doctor had swabbed. We had to bring that to a special window where they test for the STIs. I think it would be much better if those were transported for us. What if Amy and I had mixed up whose was whose? What if someone had something and the other didn’t? I feel that this whole procedure can lead to a lot of mishaps.

Next, we had our blood taken to test for the rest of the STIs, which went fine. One thing I find odd is that after your blood is taken, they give you a Q-Tip which you have to hold yourself until blood stops appearing. In Canada, a cotton ball is taped to our arm to do that job, which I feel is much better. As I write this, the day after getting tested, I have a bit of a scar where the blood was drawn, probably because I kept taking the Q-Tip off to check if the blood had stopped. Thankfully, we didn’t have to transport our blood ourselves to be tested – that was done for us.

Finally, Amy and I went downstairs to pay. It all ended up costing 253 RMB, which for reference, is about $50; not bad. Ben and I had told Amy awhile ago that in Toronto and in Tokyo, where I used to live, you can get tested for STIs for free and anonymously. She asked us, why do they do that? Ben and I told her that there is a public health interest in making sure that everyone is healthy, even with regard to sexual health. In China, it is normal to test for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and syphillis, but not the most common STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Ben and I were tested for the former diseases when we first arrived to make sure we wouldn’t infect the population with any of those horrible things. Thus, it’s not really about health and more about keeping out foreign influence. In the future, I sincerely hope that STI testing will be both more widespread around the country, more comprehensive in terms of what they test for, and less of a hassle.

Two final notes as an aside: Amy and I had lunch after we got tested. She told me that her son now knows that she’s getting divorced, which Ben and I think is great news. She also said that her Beijing beau is coming here next week and they’ll decide what sort of relationship they’re going to have. I don’t think Amy is aware of the fact that Ben and I wouldn’t have sex with her if she’s involved with someone else, as Amy told us that the beau wouldn’t want to share and we don’t want to be her secret. We do wish her the best and think this is the best bet for her.

For the second final note, I’d like to give a special shout-out to all those poly people at this time of the year. For those of you who are celebrating with your family and can’t bring additional significant others with you or can’t talk about who you are, I want to tell you that things will get better over time. As polyamory is discussed more and more widely in this society, I hope it gets accepted by more and more people and that more poly people come out. The older generations may not understand it, but in time, I think most people will come to understand that we can’t control who we love and how many we love.
Happy Holidays to everyone and all of their loves! If you have a question, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca

How Not to Say Goodbye

This blog has a double meaning. First I will talk about a bad way to say goodbye. I found out last week that the American and I will not be meeting when he comes to China, as he told me he would prefer to travel alone. I believe this is his way of saying goodbye to me. I pointed him to the last blog and I’m hoping he read it. If he did and then said no to seeing me, I’m guessing that he was only looking for sex and nothing more. As I wrote on the last blog, I was really not looking to have sex with him. I felt that seeing him would give me some sort of closure. Given his reaction, I think this is all the closure I need. I can confidently say now that I have no desire to see him again or to write to him again. I am comfortable with the fact that, even though he was a jerk, he helped lead me into the life I have now. I remember talking to him last year not long after my 1 month train trip across the US and having had various adventures. He said to me, I’ve created a monster! He did help create the person that I am now, but I have made my own choices and I feel grateful that I can now choose consciously who I have relationships with. He may have ignited the flame, but I have tended to the fire.

The second part of this post is about not saying goodbye to the person you’re with. Ben and I got into some arguments last week. One of those happened right before we went on the radio to host our weekly show at the university. By the time we arrived at the studio, we were still upset at each other. The week before, we had celebrated our anniversary and I told Ben that I had written him a song for the occasion. I would have sang it during that radio show, but the opportunity did not arise and my throat wasn’t at its best. Last week, I thought to sing the song when we began the radio show to make Ben feel better. I introduced the song to the listeners and he was shaking his head. I really didn’t know what else to do and to be honest, there was a part of me that almost wanted to make him more upset, so I sang it. When I started, he stormed out of the studio. We had a student hosting the show with us and she kept listening and told me afterward that it moved her. Awhile after, Ben returned to the studio and later that night, he said that he thought our relationship was over because he had done that. I assured him that I wouldn’t end our relationship because of that. We talked more that night and sorted things out. In the morning however, we argued again and then had to get on the bus to go out of town, as Ben had planned a hot spring getaway as a 1 year anniversary gift. On the bus to the bus station, we barely talked to each other. Once we were at the bus station, we did smooth things over.

Part of the reason why we fought is because we are uncertain of the future, especially Ben. He wants to try starting his own mine in Canada, but he doesn’t know how that will go and he has student debt to contend with. In addition, we have to deal with the fact that we may want to live in different places; I’m more of a city person and he isn’t. We also feel sometimes that we inhabit different worlds. Our bond is very deep, but our interests don’t often intersect. Ben feels that he can’t talk to me about certain nerdy things and I can’t share my artistic interests with him. One danger of poly is that we may share those things with other partners and maybe live with those other partners, thus growing distant from each other. However, by the time the weekend was over, we resolved that we want to be together no matter what. Ben told me that his heart would grow cold without me and I said that I feel the same way. We want to share daily pleasures with each other and laugh at, for example, frustrating things that happen in China. When we went away, we stayed at a hotel attached to a hot spring. One would think that our shower would have hot water, but we had no such luck. A few other guests also laughed at how Ben uses chopsticks. Ah, China…

The Week that Was: A Mega Diary

This blog will cover the period from November 21-28, during which time many things happened. It all started with, of course, a threesome sleepover. The previous weekend, Ben and I met a woman who will be known as Amy. Ben had had contact with her online and after he and I returned from a trip, she invited us over to her place. Hers is a slightly complicated situation because she has a son and she and her husband are in the process of divorcing. However, her son doesn’t know that. With that in mind, imagine Ben and I walking into the apartment she shares with her son and her inviting us into her bedroom. She told me that she has never done anything with a woman, but she was definitely making eyes at me. I also thought she was attractive and Ben was attracted to her as well. She kissed both of us and also watched us make out on her second bed. She didn’t want to do anything further because she was on her period and her son was around.

Fast forward to November 21st when she came over to our place. She had told Ben in advance that she wanted to sleep over and we were all fine with that. She’s a pretty small woman and she fit fine in the bed with us. I was very happy that she was affectionate with both of us and very inclusive of me, despite being more attracted to Ben. She is definitely a very sexual woman and enjoyed riding both Ben and I. At one point very early on the 22nd, she told me that she wanted me to teach her how to please me. She fingered me and it felt good. I went down on her and she really liked that; she comes very easily. Of course, I have mixed feelings about being someone’s teacher. I would rather find a woman who already knows her way around another woman. And speaking of that, on the day that Amy left our place, I went to a lesbian bar with an American woman I met from OkCupid who has become a friend. It was interesting to see a lesbian bar in China. Unfortunately, my Mandarin isn’t great at the moment, so I couldn’t talk to anyone. The woman I was with has been in China for about 2 years and could translate a bit. She told the others that I was bi and I was happy to know that they didn’t think I was some type of fence sitter. She also told a couple about my polyamory and one said she thought that was cool.

The day after that, a Sunday, I ended up having quite the email exchange with a certain influential person in my life who lives in New York City. For those of you who don’t know, he basically led me into poly. I had emailed him a few days before and mentioned that I’m now teaching at a university in China. He then said that he’s coming to China during his winter break. I asked him if he’d want to see me and he said he did, but his preference was for us to meet as more than friends, which surprised me because I ended the romantic part of our relationship last year. The truth is, we have never been less than friends, but I have no desire to have sex with him. When I visited him in New York 2 years ago, I actually told him that I was less than impressed with his sexual skills, which upset him. He then visited me in January last year in Toronto and we had a fairly good time, but then contact dropped off, which upset me. Last April, I told him online I didn’t want to have a romantic relationship with him anymore and he took that harshly. Mainly, I want to see him now because I feel like I need to make amends for doing that; I certainly don’t believe in ending a relationship via chat, especially with a person who has been so important to me. He said recently that he didn’t think I was into being with him, though I confessed to him 2.5 years ago that I had been obsessed with him and that I wanted him to be present when I had the abortion. After I graduated from my Master’s, I looked for jobs all over the world, including in New York so I could be near him. I’ve written poem after poem about him.  Now, I want to tell him that when we saw each other in New York and Toronto, it didn’t really feel real; it’s as if I had dreamt it. I also felt that he didn’t want me to get close to him. Last winter, many important things happened that he never told me about. I also never got a chance to meet his primary partner despite going to the city she lives in and requesting her contact information from him. Truthfully, I have always admired him. His intellectual, artistic prowess, and his worldliness was what attracted me initially and that still holds true today.

Finally, Ben and I had a lot of discussion about our future last week. He received an email from a friend who found gold on Vancouver Island and told Ben that they should explore further, perhaps open a mine. Ben had talked about doing something like that once we returned to Canada, so this is very timely. However, we hadn’t envisioned going back next year and these plans might change that. I personally don’t feel ready to return home – I still want to see more of the world and experience that with Ben. However, I would be open to living in Vancouver and seeing what it’s like to live on the west coast of Canada. It all really comes down to finding a job. Our jobs right now are pretty good, but we’d like to live in a different place and most likely outside of China. We’ll see what happens…

If you have any questions about any sort of relationship, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thanks as always for reading!

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

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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