Polyamory is (usually) hard, but so is life

Expanding more upon my last post.

Recently I read a post on the blog Solopoly by a man who is practicing solo polyamory. Solo polyamory is essentially the practice of having multiple partners (or being open to having multiple partners, or at least to your partner(s) having other partners), without doing the more traditional partnering up activities like living together and merging lives. Some people phrase it as not having a primary, but the word primary gets a little difficult to define sometimes.

Reading that post, it’s very easy to see why some people are confused about polyamory. Wouldn’t it be much simpler to just have one partner? And for your partner to only have one partner? Even if you’re not living together (see: living apart together), it’s just so much easier when you only have to worry about each other.

Driving to the airport last evening, excited to see both my boyfriends this weekend (partial polycule trip! going to a convention with Ember and Catalyst and Ember’s… girl he’s dating long distance. I should probably come up with a name for her) and at the same time worrying about life, as usual, I realized that polyamory is nothing new. The new thing about polyamory is simply the multiple romantic loves aspect, but people do things like this all the time. Things that other people think are more trouble than they’re worth, and yet somehow, they’re fulfilling and satisfying, even though they might often be painful and trying.

Take child-rearing. I’ve seen studies that show that parents aren’t happier than those without children, and who doesn’t know people who on some level miss the freedom of not being a parent? And yet, raising children is rated as one of the top truly satisfying things you can do with your life. One of those things that bring you meaning, even if they might not exactly make you happy.

I don’t mean to say that polyamory doesn’t make people happy, but I do think that if you go into polyamory expecting it to be magically more fun and exciting than monogamy, I think you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment.

There was a brief time, soon after Ember moved to Rainy City, where we closed our relationship. I was insecure about being replaced, about him finding a girl who he connected with who was everything I was to him, but better. Someone who could share in his gleeful excitement, someone who could really understand his work (and play) tech talk. I worried that there would be someone who would be the one everyone knew as his girlfriend, and I would be the unknown girl who slips in and out of his life quietly, recognized by no one as an important person in his life. That she would move into his home and his life and there would be no room for me.

A few months later, we decided to open up again. What changed? Was I no longer afraid that he’d meet this bubbly pixie tech girl? No. But I decided that he should have the chance to find her, and that maybe finding her didn’t have to mean I’d lose him. Yes it would change things, but maybe that was okay. Maybe we’d find a way to make it work. I decided to take a chance, to believe that what we had really was as strong as we thought it was. That if he built something new, it didn’t mean he’d have to tear us down.

Neither of us expected me to be the one who’d fall in love with someone else.

You can’t go into polyamory and expect your life and your existing relationships to stay the same. You can’t expect things to go the way you planned. You can’t expect a long list of rules to guarantee that there won’t be any surprises. And even if your rules are very vague, like they were and are for me and Ember, even if you both always play by them, you still can’t expect things to go the way you thought they would.

Things might always be good. Your pre-existing relationships might always be strong and healthy, and you might build new relationships that only add to your life, not take away from it. But still, things will be different, in some way or another. And life will probably be… complicated.

I like complicated. I thrive on being busy and involved. But I don’t think complicated has to mean difficult and draining. There doesn’t have to be lots of drama.

Relationship Politics versus Relationship Satisfaction

There’s a guy who goes by “Ferrett” online who is one of my favorite online journal/blog type writers. I’ve been following him on and off for years, and I especially loved his writings on relationships. A year or two into reading his journal, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he is also polyamorous. There are many styles of polyamory and he practices just one of them, but still, I love his writings.

Today he posted an entry, “The end goal is that we are happy,” that is relevant to thoughts I have often. I admit that there are times when I wonder if I’m trying too hard to be polyamorous just for the sake of being polyamorous, for the sake of proving a point, and not because it’s what makes me happy. I think that’s a more accurate description of why I decided to try polyamory, but in the end, the main reasons I’m still polyamorous are that it’s been fun so far (ah, that first time, as a young, reasonably attractive, bisexual female that you proactively dip your toes into the poly dating pool! good memories), and I’m in love with two people who have not demanded that I only be with one of them.

As I’ve mentioned before, there are people out there who really seem to be inherently polyamorous, who could never go back to monogamy. I’m not one of those people, but I admit that if in the end, things imploded, and reconfigured, and I ended up in a monogamous relationship, a part of me would feel like I failed somehow. And it is similar to how I feel about being bisexual, but currently “only” being in serious relationships with men (and not having enough energy to devote toward pursuing a new relationship any time soon). Femme-invisibility definitely doesn’t help; I may not be the femmiest of females out there, but I am very easily assumed to be cisgendered (which is accurate) and heterosexual (which is not).

But as Ferrett says, all that matters is that I’m happy. It doesn’t matter if I’m dating one man or five women. All that matters is that I’m living a life I’ve chosen, that I find fulfilling and satisfying, and that more often than not, I’m content. :)

Our Two Body Problem

(The two body problem; typically has to do with academic careers, but I think the spirit of it applies to our situation)

I had a really good post-Match Day weekend with both Ember and Catalyst, and then a wonderful week with Ember. We haven’t spent that much time around each other since October or November, and it was a well timed period of reconnection.

It was also our six year anniversary. :)

Ember and I check in with each other often, making sure we both agree that the relationship is worth continuing. We love each other and are in love with each other, but we don’t have a traditional commitment to our relationship; it’s almost more like a commitment to each other’s well being than it is to the relationship itself, which leads to us making unusual decisions like when I encouraged him to apply for this job that led to his move, or when he supported my relationship with Catalyst, even though he realized before I did how serious it could become.

I don’t think it’s better or worse to support the individuals over the relationship; it’s just different, and it’s just how we evolved. It happened because of who we were and are (especially because of who he was and is), and I’m not sure a relationship between us would really work any other way.

The way our relationship works could be its undoing, except we’re not sure at what point two people who still love each other, who are in a polyamorous relationship, and who are okay with being in a long distance relationship, decide that it’s time to break up. It’s possible that we’ll continue like this indefinitely, as intensely important figures in each other’s lives, even if not physically present. It’s also possible that things will shift and we’ll need to put a bit more emotional distance between us, because there’s the danger that the pain of watching each other build our lives independently will outweigh the pleasure of being entangled.

And it’s possible that we’ll all end up in the same city again, and that continuing our relationship in one form or another will be much easier (but never simple. We don’t do simple).

I often have a hard time explaining our relationship to other people, but it just works for us, so far and right now. We understand each other, really get each other, and we care about each other fiercely. We have our communication hiccups, but¬†ultimately¬†I think we’re very good at talking to each other, and sometimes I love him the most after we’ve just had a long, intense conversation figuring out what we’ve been doing wrong.

There are so many things about us and our relationship that are perfectly good reasons for most people to break up, but so far we’ve always decided to keep going. At the end of the day, we’ve made this a healthy relationship that’s been good for both of us as individuals, and I hope that stays true.

A Few Steps Back

Dear Mommy,

I know you’re disappointed that I haven’t ended up on the east coast, but I am hoping to be able to visit you often (psychiatry has very reasonable hours so after my first year I will often have my weekends free) and I hope that you will be able to visit too.

I’m still at the ceremony, but I’ll try to call after.

Love you!

Kitty

***

Dear Kitty,

Yes I am terribly disappointed and sad. What makes me sad is the fact that you actually decided that you wanted to be in [the pacific northwest] for your Residency. I suppose if the computer matching was solely random, that the [pacific northwest] Hospital was the best in the country for your program, or that Ember had made a firm commitment and had proposed marriage to you then I would have understood and been less sad. What mother would’t be happy to have her daughter be a little close to her?

I was hoping that having been away from us for such a long time, that given the opportunity you would have tried to be a bit closer.

I was not expecting you to be In the same state. All I was expecting, was for you to have expressed a desire to be somewhere a little closer, so we could have had a better relationship.

Any way, we can only thank God that your wishes have come through. I know you will be a great Psychiatrist and I wish you much success with the program.

***

I’ve definitely done some damage to my relationship with my mother. I knew she wouldn’t be happy about my move, but I don’t think I expected how sad I would feel in response to her disapproval. As much as we disagree on how I should live my life, I love my mother, and I’m quite fond of her. It’s hard to begrudge someone for loving you, and wanting to be closer to you. She has always regretted sending me away for boarding school when I was fourteen, but at the same time I was glad to get away, because I will never again be the sweet ten year old child she wishes I still was, and it’s hard living in your own shadow.

And I hate that she blames a lot of this on my relationship with Ember (which *gasp* is not validated and secure because we’re not engaged!), because Ember’s coping with much the same thing she is. Yes I’m closer to him now (our plane ticket is half the price, and the flight is half as long), but it’s at least another year before he’d be in a position to even think about moving. So he’s also having to cope with me moving somewhere else, and building a life apart from him.

I see my mother in three weeks, for my brother’s wedding, and I’m hoping she’s calmed down a bit by then. In the meantime, I need to figure out what damage control consists of. Mainly, it’s doing the things I should have already been doing, like calling and emailing her more often.

Coming out as polyamorous is going to be exciting! “Actually, I moved to be with my married boyfriend, and live with him and his wife, and maybe have children with him! No, they’re not getting a divorce, and she knows about this.”

Relief!

I matched into my number one choice, Catalyst’s city! He is here right now, and Ember is flying in tomorrow and staying for a week and a day. There is so much talking to do and so much to figure out, but for now we’re all just processing the information. I want to be in a celebratory mood right now, but mostly I’m just relieved, and also sad, because I’ve disappointed two of the three most important people in my life (Ember and my mother), but any option I had meant at least two of the three would be disappointed, if not all of them.

I think I made the right choice for my life, and I am happy, sad, scared, excited, confused, and so many other emotions right now.

More later, but I wanted to post something here just in case there’s any readers that aren’t connected to me via my extensive social network presence. :)

Distractions

In addition to actually enjoying cleaning, after my junior year of college I developed some mild OCD of the “germaphobe” variety. It’s mild enough that coworkers, acquaintances and even most friends probably don’t notice it, and my family has only really noticed in a “Gee, you wash your hands a lot” way. I don’t mind getting dirty, so my behavior while out and about might be a tiny bit more finicky and proper than others, but I don’t stand out in any grand way. It’s my home behavior that’s more unusual.

I insist on showering when I get home from the hospital (or clinics), because ew, hospitals, and my work shoes are separate from my every day life shoes. In general, if I’ve left home, I change into different clothes when I come home, and I prefer to live with the “no shoes in the house” rule.

So any time Catalyst or Ember are about to visit me, I go through my apartment and do a thorough cleaning. I disinfect many surfaces (like my door handles, the kitchen trash can, and the bathroom), clean the floors, and in general tidy up. It’s not that my place really gets all that dirty, but it’s easier for me to relax and not worry about what they’ve touched before touching something else, if everything’s clean.

My OCD came seemingly out of nowhere and in full force, but over time I’ve managed to convince myself to back down. I’ve still got a little ways to go before I feel like I’m not quite so weird about cleanliness, and I’m pretty sure having kids (and just living with other people) will be a big part of that. In the meantime, readying my apartment before both boys arrive this weekend has been a handy distraction from freaking out about Friday.

(Other major distractions: Sim City 5, when it works, and Lost Girl)

The Final Countdown!

Today at 11am, I learned that I’ve matched! So on Friday at 11am, I find out which of the eleven programs I interviewed at is my home for the next 3 to 5 years! (Standard full length os psychiatry residency is four years, but I can be somewhere for only three years if I choose to “fast track” into the child & adolescent fellowship at a different program. Similarly, I could be somewhere for five years if I decide to stay in the same place for that fellowship, or a different one, since most are only a year long).

If I hadn’t matched? I’d be really nervous and possibly trying to scoop up one of the still empty 30 spots in the US (I have no idea where they are though; you only have access to the details beyond the numbers if you didn’t match).

So I’m relieved that I’m not in that position, and my heart goes out to those who are (I know at least a couple =/) . But I’m still worried about exactly where I’m going to end up.

Anyway, just a little bit longer and then I can start with the more interesting posts about my relationships again. Because no matter how things turn out on Friday, interesting is the right word to describe all of this!