AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the tag “coming out”

All in the Family

The past week has seen Ben and I attending to things going on in my family. I found out about 2 weeks ago that my paternal stepgrandfather will most likely pass away within a few months due to lymphoma that has spread to his lungs. All of my grandparents live in Montreal, where my parents grew up, so we decided to make a trip. We also passed through Ben’s hometown near Ottawa and visited some people he knows. Last week we arrived in Montreal at the home of my maternal grandparents where we were going to stay. As a note, Ben was meeting everyone for the first time. Everyone liked him, which pleased me. My maternal grandparents are mostly in good health; I have always admired them because they look much younger than their early 80s lets on. They go to the gym, they continue to travel, and they make amazing food like their own bread and jam.

My mother knows about my poly life but has told me not to tell her parents. They are much more traditional than my mother and I don’t think they would understand it. However, I still feel like I have to hide a part of myself. Last year, I visited Montreal with someone I was dating at the time, but we just pretended to be friends, since we were not in a primary relationship. Of course, since Ben and I are in a primary relationship, we can be affectionate toward each other, but I would still like to tell my grandparents that we date other people and it’s okay. However, I feel okay about not telling them because I only see them a few times a year and I don’t want to ruffle any feathers.

On my father’s side, it’s a somewhat different story. My grandfather died many years ago and then almost 20 years ago, my grandmother remarried. My stepgrandfather is a very lovely man and we consider him part of our family. My father is gay and is accepted. My stepgrandfather also has a gay granddaughter and he is very accepting of her. When I visited them last year, they also met the person I was dating at the time. 2 days after they met, I was visiting my grandmother alone. I told her about the poly arrangement and she didn’t quite understand it, but didn’t object. On this visit, Ben and I visited her; my aunt from Victoria was visiting as well. We drove them to the hospital to see my stepgrandfather. My grandmother is of course very anxious and nervous because they are very close.  The gay granddaughter was there as well and informed me she has been reading this blog, so I’m glad at least someone in the family knows. I would love to tell my grandmother about the fact that Ben and I also date other people, but I’m not sure if it’s wise at this point. She is dealing with a lot.

After Ben and I returned to Toronto, we attended the Passover seder at my mom’s house. I am not a religious Jew, but there are things I like doing like Passover, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Hanukah. It’s important for me to be connected to my family in that way because it does allow us to come together, talk, and eat good food. The seder was a bit baffling to Ben. Since I am atheist, my singing of songs that glorify god was understandably confusing. However, I do feel that it’s important to preserve some elements of Jewish culture. It’s a part of my past that I’m not willing to let go of. I do understand that for some people without a religious tradition, religion can seem a bit oppressive. Ben looked uncomfortable while we were reading blessings before the meal however, he relaxed once I explained some things to him and we had a very nice meal and discussion with my family. The day after the seder, my dad reminded me that Passover is very much a metaphor. Jews have had to survive a lot and we use Passover to remember that we can overcome oppression.

It can be very difficult to “come out” to one’s family, whether you are poly, gay, or otherwise. I feel lucky because my parents are progressive and I tell them almost everything anyway, so I didn’t want to hide it from them; they have known almost since the beginning of my being poly. At the moment, Ben and I are not dating anyone else, so I feel it is somewhat irrelevant to tell my grandparents about it. However, what if either of us had another serious relationship? It’s a bit of a conundrum. If I went with someone else to Montreal, what would I tell them? I like having everything out in the open, but I like maintaining peace in my family as well.

If you have any questions, send me an email to miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thanks as always for reading and commenting!

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Is Polyamory the new Homosexuality?

There has been much discussion lately related to Dan Savage’s column about polyamory and whether or not it is a sexual orientation. Many people wrote into Dan Savage and said, I have been polyamorous (or poly for short) my whole life. It’s interesting that something that’s supposed to come natural to humans has to be viewed this way. In the poly world, we sometimes talk of the need to “come out” to friends, family or co-workers. It can be a very difficult process since monogamy is the assumed norm. On the reality show, Polyamory: Married and Dating, the participants talked to their families about what they were doing and the families were generally supportive. Thus, even if families don’t really understand how it all works, they can still be accepting. I’ve had similar experiences with my parents and I feel lucky that I can talk to them about it. Being poly is definitely an adjustment but I do believe that our capacity for love is much greater than we recognize. Many people are afraid of getting hurt when they fall in love, which is why they don’t make themselves vulnerable. There are also different kinds of love and we experience many of them everyday, whether romantic, familial, platonic or otherwise. Polyamory is not for everyone, to be certain. However, it is something that needs to be better understood and I hope that more attention will be paid to it. Many poly people I talk to say that we’re in the 70s or 80s compared to homosexuality. We still have a long way to go and there are many avenues through which to publicize this even further, whether it’s in the media or just by talking to friends. I will do my part in this column by writing about different issues associated with polyamory.  Please do write in and ask me anything about poly. If you’re in the Toronto area, which I am, there are lots of resources- meetup.com has a group called Polyamory Toronto, for example. There’s another website called opentoronto.ca  Take advantage of everything our great city has. You never know what you might learn…

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