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What Makes a Relationship Work?

Lately, Ben and I have gotten on each other’s nerves. Many of you know that this trip to Korea has been a bit hellish and it seems like things have finally come to a head. Over the weekend, Ben and I were walking around Seoul and he felt the need to take out some of his aggression on a flight of stairs by stomping very hard down them. This caught me off guard and I asked him what was wrong. He said, “you know how you’ve been remarking that I’ve handled everything here very well? In fact, it has taken a toll on me.” I wasn’t sure what to say, but I felt upset. I want to know everything Ben is feeling and he hadn’t been telling me everything. Of course, that’s partly because he wasn’t fully aware of it himself. We all know the common saying, ignorance is bliss. However, in the context of a relationship, this isn’t really true, especially for a person like me. I want to be in the know and as my mother says, one of my best qualities is the fact that I can’t ignore things.

All of this led to Ben and I having a conversation about our relationship given everything that’s happened. We feel better that things have calmed down slightly and Ben apologized for taking some of his aggression out on me. We also talked a bit about what makes a relationship work and I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject here. First, there is attraction. We meet someone and we think, I want to be with this person. For myself, I need to be with someone who’s smart. We need to be able to have stimulating conversation otherwise I won’t be interested at all. I’m usually not so concerned about what they look like because I’m attracted to different body types; they just need to have good character and a good heart. I will say I have a penchant for taller people with glasses and blue/green eyes, but I have dated others that look different from that. Second, communication. We need to keep each other in the loop about what we’re feeling and what we’re doing. This is especially important in the context of polyamory because we may have other partners and I like knowing what’s going on with the other relationships. Ben and I are both pretty direct communicators, so that part of our relationship works quite well. We usually say what we mean and mean what we say.

Third, I think sex helps make a relationship work. I like to have sex fairly frequently and it should be fun for both people. Ben and I have had some problems in that department lately because we haven’t had our own space. We’ve been staying in hostels and with others and some people have had objections to us having sex, even when we were very surreptitious about it. One girl at the hostel we were staying at heard us having sex and cried for hours. She never approached us to voice her concerns, so we’re not really sure why she was crying. Of course, we are in a pretty conservative country and I realize people here aren’t used to hearing people have sex, but I don’t want to change my practices, even in these surroundings.

Fourth, alone time is very important. I love being with Ben, but this trip has been slightly suffocating because we are together almost all the time. Over the past little while, we have made efforts to have some alone time. I visited one of the baths in Seoul and had several hours to myself. I actually missed Ben during those hours, so that’s a good sign. We all know the old cliche, absence makes the heart grow fonder. I think that is often true when we love someone.

Fifth, dependability. We need our partners to be there for us. I have definitely felt that way here in Korea with Ben. Even when we’re dealing with immigration, a lack of alone time, and the fact that it’s very hard to meet people here, we can be there for each other. We can laugh and cry at all of the crap that’s happened to us. Through a lot of my poly life, I have been a secondary partner. There are plenty of benefits to being a secondary partner, but I have often wanted someone to be there for me and someone who I can be there for. With Ben, I always get that.

Those are just some of my thoughts on what make a relationship work. There are plenty of other things and it can depend on the nature of your relationship. If you have more thoughts, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca I always look forward to your questions!

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