AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the tag “monogamy”

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

Express Yourself

When you’re in a relationship, I think that self-expression is very important. A few nights ago, Ben and I got into a big conversation about various things, including the subject of femininity and masculinity, which I talked about in the last blog. Ben has had struggles over the years with what it means to be masculine. He had a complicated relationship with his father, about whom he felt admiration and resentment. Of course, our fathers always shape what it means to be a man. I grew up with my mother and sister. I did see my dad every other weekend, but I was mainly surrounded by women. On the other hand, my friends have usually been male. With Ben, I feel that my feminine side gets expressed more often than my masculine side. I do feel that I can be myself with him, but the self I happen to be at the moment is fairly feminine. I admire the assertiveness men have and I think I am assertive most of the time, but I aspire to be even more so.

Perhaps we need to ask, what does it mean to be masculine or feminine? In our society, despite the advance of feminism, women are still expected to act a certain way. We’re expected to be more timid and not to ask for what we want. Normally, I am neither one of those things. I’ve asked out most of the people I’ve dated. I have no trouble showing people my crazy side. Are these normally masculine traits or is this just me being me? I also happen to have a non-verbal learning disability, which among other things, affects my ability to read social cues. Sometimes I have no idea if I make people feel uncomfortable and sometimes, well, I don’t really care.

I think that in some monogamous relationships, people have trouble expressing themselves. When you are limited to being with one person, you may feel that you can’t fully be yourself because you have to be preserve the relationship above all else. In poly, different selves can be expressed with different people. I think fewer of us feel the need to act differently from who we are – we know that we need to be ourselves with everyone we are with. They are with us for a reason, after all. For everyone I’m with, I strive to be myself and I ask for what I want. I have thought recently about how I would act if I was with Ben as well as a woman. I don’t have a lot of experience with women, so when I am with a woman, I often let her take the lead. However, I want to change this. That’s the thing about poly – we get to learn about other people, and maybe even more about ourselves.

Good Things Come in Threes

I’m sure that when you saw the title of this post, you thought I was talking about group sex or specifically threesomes. I actually want to talk about my theory of what a good relationship consists of. I have often spoken about this with friends and lovers, but I have never written about it here so I thought this was a good time to do so.

First, good communication. Yes I know I have written about this in many posts, but it can never be emphasized enough, especially with regard to polyamory. We have to be open about what and who we want. When we have partners, they have to know what’s going on. We have to check in and give heads up like there is no tomorrow. I think good communication is often missing from monogamous relationships. You can never underestimate the power of an amazing conversation or just sharing stories from your past. When secrets are revealed to me, I feel closer to the person I’m with. This is often multiplied in polyamory because if I’m dating someone who is in a relationship with someone else, that other partner and I can talk about our own mutual partner. I might tell that person things they didn’t know about our partner. Also, if my partner has an ex I am friends with, I can talk to the ex about what my partner did in the past. This can be very powerful stuff.

Next, good sex. Okay so this post isn’t entirely devoid of sex, but this isn’t specifically about threesomes. When you have good chemistry in life, this can often translate to chemistry in the bedroom. I once heard someone say that the best quality a lover can have is creativity. You have to mix things up sometimes, especially if you are in a long term relationship. Creativity can include lots of things like trying a new position, adding things like BDSM or other types of kink, having sex in different places, testing out whether different points on the body are sensitive, etc. Ok, it can also include things like threesomes and group sex. As long as all partners are satisfied, you’re on the right track. And remember, consent is very very sexy. If you’re planning to try something very different and new for everyone, talk about it first and if needed, plan for it. You may need to go out and get new things; another fun adventure to have together.

Finally, and I think this is something that can be neglected but is very important, good food. This is especially pertinent if you are living together or you spend lots of time in each other’s homes. Go food shopping together or go fruit picking somewhere. Cook together. Eat together and talk while you do so; turn off the TV and computers and I promise, you will be happier. Whether the relationship is romantic or not, good food is important. I just spent a few days at Ben’s mother’s home in eastern Ontario and played cook for a few meals, as they had lots of housework and yardwork to do. Ben’s mom really appreciated the effort I went to. I also happen to like cooking, so it’s not a bother for me. Ben likes doing dishes, so we complement each other well in that regard. Ben has told me before that when we’re apart, he misses my food. That is always a great compliment to get. The food you make doesn’t have to be complicated and many people have simple tastes. I personally like to make simple things because food usually gets on the table faster that way.

Of course, there are other things that make a relationship work, but I think these are 3 very basic things we need to get right. Good communication challenges our brains and good sex and food satisfies our bodies. If you have any questions on how to get these 3 things right, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thanks as always for reading!

From Monogamous to Polyamorous

Q: I recently received an email from a reader. Rather than put the entirety of its contents on here, I’m going to summarize what they said. This person, L, is poly and has recently met someone (S); they have a lot in common. However, S hasn’t had any experience with non-monogamy. L is into BDSM and has a few play partners, including a more serious one, A. L and A have talked about the situation with S and A very much trusts L’s judgment. S wants to start very slowly with an open relationship and see how things go and L is open to this.  

A: This can be a very tough spot for a poly person to be in for many reasons. First of all, you basically have to teach the new person how to be poly. For me, this is both a turn off and a turn on. I like sharing my knowledge, but it can also get very tiring. I have had varying degrees of success of introducing poly to non-poly people. In the summer of 2013, I met someone online who had never been poly before. Like L and S, we had a lot in common and had a lot of fun together. I was dating someone at the time and they got along very well. I had to end the relationship, but not for reasons related to poly. There were also 2 other people I met who had never been non-monogamous either. I really liked one of them, but he didn’t think he could be poly, and the other one was very attractive, but lacked social skills, so I didn’t pursue it. 

The other snag with introducing someone to poly is you are still seeing others. The new person, in this case S, has to accept the fact that you will be seeing other people and that can be scary. S is surely going through a lot of emotions like jealousy and has to have the communication skills to work through them. L, I would advise you to proceed with caution. Your relationship with A, I think, is significant and I don’t think you want to give up seeing them. One thing I would bring up with S is the fact that you DO live in different places and it may be beneficial for both of you to see people in your own city. Being in a long distance relationship myself, I know that being able to see people in my own city is very nice. It can be a double edged sword though; I find it makes me miss Ben more because it really shows me how much we click.

I have realized that there are lots of cool poly people out there who I have things in common with. You may meet one or more of them here and realize you don’t want to continue seeing S. I would bring this up with S and see what they say. At the begining of a relationship, I like to lay all my cards out on the table. I actually did that last night when I had a second date with B, who I met at Oasis when Patrick was in town. B told me that if he met someone he really clicked with, he would be monogamous with them. I don’t like the specter of this hanging over my head so we decided we wouldn’t see each other anymore. B is a very cool person and I’m sure he’ll meet someone he really clicks with. For myself, I get emotionally involved fairly quickly and easily and I want to have relationships that can go the distance…

Thanks L for writing in! If you have any questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  All questions are posted anonymously.

Post Navigation