AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the tag “gender”

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

AskMiriam About Bisexuality

Question: Do you feel like there is an inherent bias in the poly community against bisexual men? I don’t identify as bi, though I’m aware how fluid everything is and I am occasionally curious. I just feel like there is a very small bi male population, at least that is visible. The ratio of bi females to straight females is nearly the reverse of the ratio for males. Why? Is this indicative of something or just a reflection of our culture at large?

Answer: This issue comes up again and again. With regards to the poly women I have met, most of them tend to identify somewhere on the queer spectrum, which includes bi. I myself identify as someone who’s attracted to the person, not the gender (Check out this book for that sort of label: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674032262). I don’t think we need to restrict ourselves when it comes to who we get involved with and I like having the freedom to be with men, women, and anyone else on the gender spectrum. The poly men I have met tend to be straight. I do believe that part of this is social conditioning; it’s completely acceptable for women to be sexual together, but for men, it’s much more complicated. It’s only been fairly recent that homosexuality of any sort has become socially acceptable. Unfortunately, I think that women are often sexual together because it’s a fantasy of a man they’re with, however there are many of us out there who genuinely want to be with more than one gender. It could also be the fact that women tend to be more attractive in general, so perhaps there’s more reason for a woman to be attracted to women than for a man to be attracted to men.

There’s also something else going on here: Many of us poly women like questioning the status quo; we do it everyday if we are poly. If we question traditional relationship structures, why not question our sexuality? Of course, poly men also question the status quo, but men have much more at stake in the traditional societal structure than women. It is to their disadvantage to question their sexuality because that means questioning a society that has traditionally supported them. Back in the 1950s, Kinsey posited that sexual orientation was on a spectrum and I think human sexuality is much more fluid than most people think; we are sexual beings after all.  I sometimes get into arguments with Ben about this issue because he very much identifies as straight. Of course I trust him, but I wonder what would happen if men were more encouraged to question their sexuality.

As I have written before, I have a unique perspective on all of this because of my gay father. Sometimes I wonder the extent to which he had feelings for my mother before they split up. My mother had no idea he was gay, so I suppose he put on quite the act, but I wonder if any of it is genuine. He also said to me recently, sometimes I think it would be easier just to be with a woman. When he was young, it was very difficult to be gay and I think he felt like he had to hide who he was. I do feel thankful that I was born, but I wish things had been easier for him.

If you have any questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca. Eve is currently visiting Ben and I and once she leaves, I will write about the visit.

AskMiriam about Jealousy

Questions: How do you deal with the jealousy problem? If, for example, Amy had more interest in Ben and she wants to monopolize Ben’s time, how would you deal that?

Answer: Periodically, I get asked about jealousy and I don’t think it’s a topic I could write too much about. This particular question, however, involves 3 people: myself, Ben, and Amy, so it’s a bit more specialized. I am of the opinion that every relationship is unique. Amy cannot replace what Ben and I have and I cannot replace what Amy and Ben have. If Amy wanted to spend more time with Ben, I hope that she would tell me that. At the very least, Ben would tell me and we would talk about it. The same thing might happen if I met someone new and wanted to spend more time with them; I would tell Ben about it. Now, scheduling isn’t very romantic, but I think it’s nice when people decide in advance that they’ll spend certain nights together. Of course those nights could change, but perhaps they won’t. Most people require consistency in their lives and I often feel that I do as well, even though I also enjoy adventures.

This question also deals with the issue of insecurity. If Ben were to spend more time with Amy, would I feel insecure about myself or the relationship? The answer for me is, not really. I do consider myself lucky because I was raised with a healthy sense of self. A lot of women are taught to feel bad about themselves and have low self esteem as a result. No matter the gender, some people would also think they are being replaced by the new person. I think communication goes a long way toward remedying this. If we remind our partners how much they mean to us, that certainly helps. If we do something like have sex soon after our partner comes back from seeing their partner, that can sometimes help too. We can also develop feelings of compersion, meaning we are happy when our partner is with someone else. I personally still want to develop that more… These issues aren’t always easy and depending on our own personal situation, they can feel better or worse. It’s important to be kind to yourself and tell your partner what your needs are in this situation. As always, communicate, communicate, communicate. The person with the new partner should also be sensitive toward their existing partner(s)’ feelings.

As a note, I’m currently on holiday. Tomorrow I’m off to Japan and in mid February, I head to Taiwan. I hope to have some adventures while on the road. Stay tuned! If you have a question, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca Thank you as always for reading!

Gender and Jealousy

I have written about jealousy before but it seems to be the topic that never goes away, so I felt compelled to write about it yet again. Over the weekend I went to a couple of poly events and I was asked repeatedly, do I get jealous? The answer is, well yes. The relationship between polyamory and jealousy is an interesting one. In some ways, we have more opportunities to be jealous because we might see our partner(s) with other people and feel jealous. We might hear our partner(s) talk about experiences they’ve had with other people and feel jealous. In monogamy, jealousy gets swept under the rug. Some people feel it shouldn’t even be discussed. I don’t think that’s a particularly healthy way to deal with jealousy and personally, I can’t sweep things under rugs.

I like talking about things and jealousy is sometimes one of those things. I feel that actually talking about it is the better thing to do because you can get to the root of why you feel that way. I think jealousy does come from a deeply ingrained place and we started learning about it as children. I think nearly everyone has some experience of abandonment in childhood and when you become an adult, it’s normal and sometimes healthy to feel that your partner may abandon you. At the end of the day, we have to feel confident in ourselves and in our relationships. Most relationships will end at some point and it’s important to know we can depend on ourselves and our friends and family for support when that does happen. However, I think that few poly relationships end due to jealousy because many of us are able to ask for what we need. For example, the jealousy may indicate that you want more time with your partner. If you don’t share that with your partner, they’ll never know.

So, what’s the relationship between gender and jealousy? Last year, I attended an academic polyamory conference in which one of the presenters gave a talk on jealousy. She compared poly men and women with regards to sexual jealousy, meaning you’re jealous because your partner is having sex with someone else, and emotional jealousy, meaning you’re jealous because your partner is forming emotional bonds with someone else. I was surprised to hear that her sample of poly men got more emotionally jealous than the women. Many people think that women are more prone to emotional jealousy, but I also think that many men are taught to take care for their partners, so when they see someone else starting to fulfill that role, they feel jealous. On the other hand, women are often taught to keep a tight hold on a good man when they find one. For thousands of years, women had to depend on men for financial security, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t want their men shacking up with other people. However, given that more and more women are in the workforce, this is of less concern. Thus, I think you can see that the relationship between gender and jealousy isn’t so clear cut.

So yes, I get jealous, but I can deal with it. Communication and a healthy sense of self are important, though they take time to be developed. Usually I just need a bit of reassurance that I’m important to my partner. I do believe though that having metamours (when your partner has a partner) has more benefits than drawbacks. As I mentioned recently, Tony and Ben get along and that makes me really happy. Awhile ago, Ben was dating someone and the 2 of them made a cake for me. I have to say, having metamours is pretty sweet…

If you have any questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca Ben and I leave on Friday afternoon for Korea. Either before then or during our long plane ride, I will write a blog on saying goodbye, an important part of most relationships.

Gender and Communication

I had an interesting exchange yesterday on my way to work that helped inspire me to write this post. I’m an avid cyclist and someone else was cycling behind me. He passed me and then we came to a red light. He turned around and said, maybe I shouldn’t have passed you, now we’re at this red light. I said to him, yeah and you don’t get to look at my ass. He said, I appreciate your refreshing candour. We ended up having a very pleasant conversation and exchanged emails. 

In our society, there are lots of double standards when it comes to gender and I think communication is one of them. This is definitely something that can affect relationships of all kinds. Women can get away with saying many things that men can’t. If a man hits on a woman in a crass way, women tend not to respond. On the other hand, if women hit on men in a crass way, many men would respond. When it comes to non-monogamy, I can do something like propose a threesome to 2 guys and they will usually say yes. If a man went up to 2 women and asked if they wanted to have a threesome, the answer would usually be no. Women are not expected to be so open and direct; it’s one of the reasons why I like being that way. I encourage women to be open about how they feel. I would encourage men to do the same because men are often taught to hide how they feel, perhaps even more so than women. However, there are many men who don’t know how to express their affection for someone in a nice way. A male friend recently told me that he asked people for their permission to flirt with them- I really like that approach.  

If you are a man who likes women, remember that women get hit on all the time. Using a bit of delicacy is called for. We don’t just want to be told we are good looking. Personally, I think you can start by saying ‘hi’ and getting to know the person- those are both very attractive and will win lots of points. Once you get into a relationship, you will know better how your partner likes to communicate and how best to communicate to them. I do think that openness is very important- whether it’s good or bad, your partner wants to know how you feel, so just tell them. 

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