AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the tag “PhD”

On Not Caring What Others Think

Ben is now with me in Vancouver and we’re quite happy about that. It’s nice for us to get to be domestic together again. Aside from that, I’ve unfortunately had to deal with some family nonsense. Last weekend, Ben and I went to visit my grandmother, who has moved to BC from Quebec. She moved to the same city as 2 other family members of mine, whose identity I will keep secret. Until recently, she was living with them and that was difficult at times because one of them can be a rather taciturn individual. I will call that individual R and use the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’ in order to keep the gender a secret. R discovered my blog about 8 months ago and sent me a very disgruntled email. I had written about my interest in doing a PhD in order to study polyamory more in-depth. R wrote to me saying that I might as well do a PhD in being a couch potato because that would make just as much sense. R also wrote that I was disgracing the family because I use my name on the blog – forget the fact that I don’t use our last name, so people who don’t know me personally can’t trace my family through my blog. I sent R a rather diplomatic email back, but never heard back. I don’t really care what R thinks because we’re not close, but I was concerned because my grandmother was living with R and R definitely shared how they felt with my grandmother. When I visited my grandmother 2 years ago, I had tried to explain poly to her, but she didn’t really get it. After the nonsense with R, I was very happily surprised when my sister actually stood up for me and explained to my grandmother that I wasn’t cheating on Ben. When Ben and I actually saw my grandmother last weekend, she said she doesn’t care about how I live my life; she’ll always love me. Before going to see her, I sent a cordial email to R saying that Ben and I would be visiting that city and I asked R if they would like to meet Ben. R wrote back saying, not interested. I’m disappointed that R doesn’t really want to be involved in my life, but ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is the fact that another family member of mine isn’t talking to me and I’m close to them. I will call that family member S and use the pronouns they and them. S is someone I’ve grown very close to over the last few years. S is actually the only person in my family to have met the American, who got me into poly. I thought the 2 of them would get along, so I introduced them when the American visited me and that did go well. In terms of more recent events, S was going to contribute money to the wedding, but has decided not to because they think Ben and I shouldn’t be getting married right now due to our unstable financial situation. S also thinks that I should not be doing a PhD; I should focus on making myself employable in Canada. The irony is, one reason why I want to study in the US is because that will make me more employable in Canada. Universities tend to like it when you’ve studied in a different country because they want to have different perspectives contributing to the field. Also, PhDs in the US tend to be funded and there are people I want to work with there. I would very seriously consider doing my PhD at UBC because I really like Vancouver and I don’t have a huge desire to move yet again, but I need to know that it would lead to employment afterward and that I would be funded. Regardless, the situation with S is difficult because we are close. I care about what S thinks, but I’m not going to modify my life to suit S’s concerns. There is a part of me that thinks that S is afraid of being abandoned. They don’t like the fact that I keep moving and would prefer if I was in Toronto. The truth is, Toronto doesn’t feel like my home anymore.

In general, I think society often expects that women are going to adjust their lives to suit others around them. Women follow their partners to other countries because their partner has found a job there. Women give up a career they love to raise children while their partner continues working. Women may even modify their reactions to suit their partners. As a feminist, I refuse to change my life significantly to suit someone else unless I feel comfortable with it. I like pleasing people, but I also want to please myself. I was talking to a slightly older friend who told me that all of this gets easier with age. Women are respected more and taken more seriously as we get more grey hair. Thankfully, I’ve already started getting those…

If you have any relationship questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thank you as always for reading! I hope to blog more regularly from now on.

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Relationship Logistics

I am now back in Zhengzhou with Ben and we are very glad to be together after such a long absence. We realized that we could have planned our trips better and perhaps could have had more time together, but we were happy that we got to be independent for those 6 weeks. On the tail end of my trip, I got to spend 1 day in Hong Kong and had some delicious dim sum. I have had dim sum many a time in Toronto, my hometown, and really wanted to try it in its native place – it was indeed delicious. I also got to spend a bit of time with a charming French man who was travelling around the world and we had a few meals together and watched the Imitation Game, which I highly recommend. Now, Ben and I are adjusting to being back in this city that we don’t really like, but happy to be living together again.

The other night, Ben, Eve, and I all had an online call together. We talked about many things, including all of our futures. Eve is planning to visit us here in China, most likely next month. We are all excited about it, but also nervous because it is difficult to know where the relationship might go at this point. Eve is applying to do her Master’s in Austria while Ben and I are planning to live on the west coast of North America. We are returning to Canada in July and will be in BC for about 1 year, after which I may go to Seattle, Ann Arbor, or southern California for a PhD. Ben is not sure exactly what his future holds – when we return, he is planning to search for gold in BC and may or may not be successful. Thus, we may all end up being in different places.

One of the biggest challenges of polyamory is logistics. Whether you are living in the same place or having long distance relationships, everyone only has so much time to spend together. Money can also be an issue if you have to travel far distances to see different people. When Ben and I were living apart, we missed each other horribly. We were, thankfully, able to come to Asia and be together. Despite the challenges of being in this part of the world, we relish the time we spend together. Depending on Eve’s acceptance into the program in Austria and what sort of funding she’ll receive, she may go there or stay in Vietnam. Either way, all of us want to see what it’s like to be together.

One last thing I want to mention: while Eve, Ben and I were talking, Eve asked us what our definition of a relationship is. Despite writing about relationships, this is something I hardly ever think about. With regard to a romantic relationship, it can include so many different things: spending time together, sharing secrets and intimacy, sex or at times no sex, communication, and as Ben pointed out, some sort of commitment. I think most people enter into a relationship thinking that it could last forever. It’s easy to say that from the outset, but one has to put in the work to make sure it lasts. Dear readers, how do you define a relationship? Write to me at miriam@askmiriam.ca

Some Words about Bias

Since there’s not much going on in my personal life at the moment, I wanted to talk about something academic: bias. I’m seriously considering applying for a PhD, which would start in 2016. I would like to study about polyamory because not many people in academia are and because I think it’s a phenomenon worth studying. Plus, I love researching love and sex. I found out about one professor who’s done some relevant research and sent him an email. His response seemed a bit odd. He said that research into polyamory is mostly done by people “in the lifestyle” and therefore, their research will not be objective. By this logic, should research about homosexual people be done only by heterosexual people? Should research into minorities not be done by minorities themselves? There is a dangerous history of all of this happening. I shared the professor’s email with my mother, who has a PhD, and she insisted that he was being encouraging and that in academia, you always have to defend your work. Ben asked my mother, does that mean that I (as in, me) would have to defend my own personal life? I would hope not, but you never know.

For those of us who are poly and especially those of us who write about it, we want people to know that it’s going on. My ex, who I was monogamous with for many years, told me that I have become a poly activist; I write this blog, I’ve started writing a book about poly, and I’ve talked at conferences about it. By all measures, I guess I am a poly activist and why shouldn’t I be? I have a vested interest in people knowing about polyamory and understanding it better. Polyamory is one of the driving forces in my life and I want to share that with others. This does not mean that I believe that poly is for everyone. I just read an article last night about an intentional community that embraces polyamory and for the people who moved there, they were encouraged to try it out. Many of those people had previously not been poly and they found it difficult. The author seemed to suggest that if and when people left this community, they would probably go back to being monogamous, if they had previously been monogamous. She argued that their polyamory was situational and they hadn’t really chosen to be poly at all. Polyamory isn’t the best fit for everyone and I’m fully aware of that. Bias does not have to interfere with logic.

I’m still not sure what to make of the professor’s email. My mother had found an article of his arguing that you can’t love more than 1 person at a time. Of course, he was interviewing people in monogamous relationships who had developed feelings for other people and they felt enormous guilt about their feelings. He stated in the article that more research needs to be done into polyamory, especially more definitive work. He could have started that himself… He said that I could myself write a book about it or at least a blog. Perhaps he found my blog, so he knows what my life is like. My impression is that his bias is against polyamory. We all have work to do to see what our bias is and understand how it affects our life.

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