Family

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about family lately, mainly due to my upcoming betrayal of my mother (I’ll be ranking medical residencies on the West Coast, to be closer to Ember and Catalyst, higher than programs on the East Coast, which are closer to her), but recently something happened to a metamour of mine (metamour = someone dating one of your romantic partners but not you) that has added an extra layer of poignancy to my thoughts.

I’ve been worried about my parents disowning me, or trying to give me some sort of ultimatum once I come out to them, and now it’s happened to someone else and it’s becoming a more realistic thought. I’m not sure how I’d react. I know I’d be very sad, and probably a bit angry/frustrated, but there isn’t really anything I can do to prepare for it. I just need to give everyone the best chance of coming to terms with this, and hope it’s not a disaster. =\

I actually really enjoyed visiting my family over Christmas, aside from the occasional remarks about my not being engaged to Ember yet and why can’t we just move to the East Coast already? There was one day where I was puttering around the kitchen helping my mother, and I realized how comfortable and at home I felt in that moment, and I admit it took me by surprise. I guess I was expecting it to be more difficult to relax, but this was the first time in about a year that I spent more than a weekend with my parents.

I’m by myself a lot, outside of the hospital. I live alone, and even when I had a roommate a year ago, I kept to myself. I forget sometimes that I really enjoy simple, quiet company, that there’s a specific kind of joy in comfortably sharing space with other people. And I get that feeling very easily when I’m visiting Ember, or Catalyst and his wife, Dreamer. It takes time to really familiarize yourself with someone else’s home, but I love getting to the point where I know where things are and where things go. I’m very domestically oriented in certain ways, and cleaning is a great brain reset activity for me.

I love my biological family. I’m very connected to them, and there is no replacing their specific role in my life. Yet that doesn’t meant that I can’t lead a full and happy life without them, if it comes to that. I want to keep my family in my life because I feel good around them, because we get pleasure from each other’s company, because we care about each other and we want to help each other. But if that goes away? If all that’s left is judgement and guilt and resentment? If they can’t accept that I can still be their daughter and worthy of their love and pride, worthy of their time, even if I make some odd, apparently risky relationship decisions? Then that’s not really family anymore to me.

Enough to go around

My oldest brother just had a second baby, so I hunted for and bought two books for his three year old daughter about adjusting to a new sibling. People often retort to “But how can you really love more than one person?” with “Well how can you love and care for more than one child? Is your love for one diminished by your love for the others?” Reading through the books geared at preparing an older sibling, the comparison really is quite apt!

It’s true, of course, that you have less time for each partner, the more partners you have. But that’s true if you have kids, a demanding career, lots of friends, time consuming hobbies, close family, etc. I think it’s interesting that we don’t put limitations on most facets of life except for how many romantic partners you can/should have.

I’ve never been someone who has a lot of really close friends, and that actually made it a little harder for Ember when I started dating Catalyst. Ember had never really had to share me before. It was like he’d been an only child for years and years and then all of a sudden, there’s another kid! I’d always prioritized Ember far above my friends, so it’s been an ongoing adjustment to this idea that there’s someone else I really want to do things with, and unfortunately (though sometimes fortunately), they have pretty much the same hobbies. I’ve never seen Ember as upset and jealous/envious as when I accidentally started playing a video game with Catalyst that he’d been waiting to play with me (I had thought he’d already started it with his usual gaming group).

Being the only ____ is an easy way to feel special, but it’s not the only way. When Ember first moved to The Pacific NW, I was very insecure about needing to be known as his girlfriend by his social circles and coworkers, and went out of my way to meet people when I visited him; I was worried that he would start dating someone new who would then be known as “the girlfriend.” It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t that I needed to be known as the only important girlfriend, but I needed to be known as an important girlfriend. Whether or not there were other significant girlfriends was not really the issue.

I believe that humans are capable of a lot of love, and that love really isn’t the limiting factor. There’s always enough love. The question is whether you can meet the other tangible and intangible needs, like quality time and feeling special, of all your romantic partners. Polyamory isn’t about having the most partners possible. It’s about sustainable, (sometimes ever growing and evolving), networks and families of love and support. It’s about being open to the idea that the standard two adult household is not the only way to live a partnered life. It’s about being open to the idea that maybe a completely partnered life isn’t even what everyone wants.

Polyamory doesn’t mean never having to make sacrifices, never having to make hard choices. But it means you might not have to make certain hard choices, and it gives you more options in certain very important ways.

Put a ring on it? Sigh.

I have so much I want to say about the idea of marriage and primary relationships and commitment, and it’s not going to fit in one post, as much as I keep trying. So I’m going to do my best to keep this post focused.

I interviewed at my school last week, the only Midwest program I applied to, and one of my favorite Doctors really wants me to stay, but did emphasize that it’s my choice how I make my rank list. Still, he said that he discourages anyone from moving for a relationship without a ring.

I feel like I’m stuck in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. If I don’t get married at all, people will forever worry about me. Why is she devaluing herself? Why is she making these sacrifices for men who don’t/can’t properly commit to her? If I do get married (which would be to Ember, since Catalyst is already married), why am I violating the sanctity of marriage and seeking anything outside of it? How could I even consider having children with someone other than my husband? Why did I bother getting married in the first place?

I wish I knew more people in similar situations. Most poly people I know are married, or are unmarried but not wanting kids. I don’t know anyone that’s thinking about having kids outside of marriage, let alone with someone else who’s married. (Note the word choices I’m using, by the way; we’re still in the very early contemplation stages with this whole kids thing).

And I guess that’s part of why I wanted to start this blog. I wanted there to be representation of something a little different from what I usually see online. =)

By the way, please subscribe! You can either subscribe to my RSS feed, or subscribe to get emails. I’m aiming to post frequent, short posts, and I feel weird advertising every single time I update.

Merry Christmas! :)

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I’m not religious, but Christmas is what my family celebrates, and it’s a holiday I’m historically fond of. Mainly for its more pagan features, like the trees and decorations. =) And for the general spirit of this larger holiday season (taking time off to reflect, relax, and spend time with loved ones if one can and wants to).

I’ve had a good visit with my family so far, but my reaction to this card “Aww, yay! Except I wonder if that’d be true if you really knew me” is a good representation of how my time around family and family friends goes. I enjoy their company, but I always wonder if I’d be able to if they knew more about me.

It’s Getting Better

I’ve been scrolling through my old online journals from between the ages of fourteen and twenty (Ember and I started dating when I was about twenty and a half, and he was the first person I fell in love with and actually had a relationship with). I don’t mean to belittle my younger self (and it’s okay because I would have used these words and this tone back then too), but I was so painfully emo. The angst! The loneliness! The defensive walls I tried to put up!

It’s not that my life is easier now. In many ways, it’s harder, because the decisions I’m making have more serious and longer reaching impacts (and complications). But I’ve got so much love and support now that I actually appreciate, love and support that is a wonderful mix of “we love you no matter what” but “stop being silly and go do that thing you were supposed to do yesterday.”

I know that a lot of what has changed is simply time and experience, but I’m not going to minimize the impact of both my relationships. Ember has been the relentless cheerleader at my side, and has helped me stay afloat even when I didn’t realize that my stress and anxiety was starting to drown him too. Catalyst has been another source of morale, and also a taskmaster, helping me go the extra mile and aim for something more than “good enough.”

I get the pride of being good for them too, and helping others has more healing power than being helped. Yes this setup brings its own stresses, but there’s far more good than bad, or we wouldn’t still be together.

So yes, my life really is getting better. =) I hope yours is too!

Happy Holidays? Well, yes!

I usually go back to my parents’ home country for Christmas and New Year’s, for about a week or a week and a half. After a few days, I’m ready to leave. I love my parents, I love my brothers (and their wives/fiances), and I love being home, but I tend to get that “lonely in a crowd” feeling around them. As the family has grown and as my brothers have moved on to building their own families, it’s become easier for me to feel lost when we’re all together.

This year though, I’m spending Christmas with most of my family, in the US (two babies due very soon, so no traveling for two of my brothers), but then I get to spend New Year’s with Ember and Catalyst!  I’m looking forward to having not just one, but two people to kiss and welcome in the New Year with. This is a huge and significant improvement over my traditional zero.

I’m still hopeful that one day there’ll be less of this “I can either spend time with my family, or with my loves” dichotomy, but until then I can’t deny that it’s warmer and more comfortable to be around Ember and Catalyst. I never feel lonely around people when the people are either or both of them. Big reason why I love them. =)

I hope you all have plans or non-plans that you’re pleased with!

The Stigma of Different

In the middle of finishing up my final year of medical school, I’m traveling around the country interviewing for my next 4 to 5 year commitment, my medical internship and residency. Recently I was excited to see just how strange and weird a particular program was, and whether they’re really as odd as everyone talks them up to be (spoiler: they weren’t).

It hit home just how much people exaggerate differences, especially when there usually isn’t a lot of variation. When everyone else is doing more or less the same thing, being the one that does things differently, even just a bit, really sticks out. Some people take it in stride, “Oh, yeah, that program’s kinda weird,” but other people seem almost offended. As though by doing things differently, that program is judging everyone else and saying “You guys are doing it wrong. We’re right! We’re better than you!” And in a way, they are saying that. They wouldn’t be different if they didn’t think that their way works well, works better.

I see the same thing happen often with polyamory. A lot of the negative comments people post online have to do with thinking that polyamory is immature, immoral, having your cake and eating it too, an abusive and ungodly setting to raise children in, impossible to sustain, against civilized nature, etc. Basically, a lot of it is knee jerk “That’s not how you do things!” reactions. What’s wrong with monogamy? Why can’t you just be like everyone else? I think that part of the aggression towards polyamory comes from a defensive place.

Most polyamorous people I know don’t believe that polyamory is better than monogamy. They might believe that it is better for them, as individuals, but they don’t think that it’s the way everyone should live. Now, most of them would also say that there’s a lot wrong with how relationship communication and expectations are generally managed in society, but I think that’s separate from the basic idea of two people deciding to be romantically and sexually involved with only each other.

I worry a lot about other people noticing that I’m different, because I like to blend in, only being recognized when I choose to be. I hate being the center of attention, and I have terrible stage fright. I like being behind the scenes so much that I sometimes embrace thankless roles, because I don’t mind missing out on the attention of appreciation.

So the two things that concern me most about being polyamorous/practicing polyamory, are 1) being obviously different in a nonstandard way and 2) the various violent/drastic ways in which people react to this difference. I could very easily get used to #1 if not for #2. Obviously, this is not an unbearable concern, because I’m still in very serious relationships with two men, but I spend a lot of time wondering how I can minimize the effect of #2 on my life. Other people shake off the negativity and vitriol pretty easily, and I guess there’s always going to be someone out there who hates you for some benign label you fit under, isn’t there?