Growth restriction

So recently there was a post on a poly blog I read about Couple’s Supremacy, as opposed to Primacy.

My feelings on hierarchies in polyamorous relationship aren’t entirely coherent or cohesive. I can barely even define what a primary relationship means to me. It’s easier and obvious for a lot of people; their primary is their live in boyfriend/girlfriend or their spouse. I refer to both Catalyst and Ember as my primaries, even though I don’t live with Ember and even though we might never all live together, but they are both incredibly important to me. I talk to them every day, and they strongly influence how I live my life and the decisions I make. They are the people I would want at my side if I were in a hospital, the people I would drop everything for to support them during an emergency, and they are the first people I want to share both good and bad news with.

I am not opposed to either of them eventually developing relationships that would feel to them the way their relationships with me do, and I don’t have any rules about it. It doesn’t make sense, to me, to make rules, to preemptively decide how a situation must play out without experiencing that situation first. 

With Ember, there’s the added complication that he’s living in the Bay Area, so if he meets someone new, it’s likely to be there, and there’s always the chance that he might fall for someone else who he’d prefer to not be in a long distance relationship with. He’s not explicitly looking for that level of connection right now, but sometimes you unexpectedly find someone you really click with, and you either make the decision to pursue it or you stunt the relationship before it grows. I’m currently at a place where I have decided to stunt any possible relationships I come across, because I don’t have the reserves in me to grow another significant relationship. Catalyst feels similarly. 

I moved to and lived in a new city without a primary connection for four years. It was hard, but I’m a bit of a loner and it takes a lot to convince me to venture out and meet new people by myself. I did end up dating a married couple about half way through my time in the midwest (which was fun and I miss them) because I admit I was starting to feel critically lonely at that point. I was only dating Ember, long distance, and he was busy and stressed out, and I was just really lonely. I would’ve just trucked on through that stage, but Ember had recently moved to a new city and was likely going to start dating soon, so I decided I might as well give it a shot too. 

So I understand how Ember feels, and why he’s venturing out and meeting people right now. I think some people would place restrictions like “No potential primary relationships” or “You can only date people who already have primaries and are only looking for secondaries” or “No single people,” but we’re not comfortable with that. He’s being upfront with people about his pre-existing relationship situation, and what he currently has to offer (between work and me+Catalyst and needing time to himself), and we’ll just have to wait and see what connections that leads to and what level of complexity that adds to our future. Ember could be living in the Bay Area for close to another year, at least, and that’s a long time to be on your own. I know.

MFM Vee vs Triad

Last night, Ember said to me, “By the way, I don’t think of us as a Vee anymore.” To which I responded, “I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about that!”

I know an MFM triad whose usage of the word triad used to confuse me. “But the guys aren’t involved with each other, how are they a triad?” Somewhere along the course of the 2+ years I’ve known them, I realized that I wasn’t confused anymore.

I guess there can come a point where defining a relationship simply by who has sex with who isn’t exactly the key anymore.

Although, I actually rather like the sound of “MFM V Triad,” because I think it succinctly gives the reader a good idea of what on earth is going on here.

Being different

It’s strange to realize how “normal” the polyamorous community actually is.

There’s a big facebook group here in Rainy City, I think now with over 500 members. It started with someone just inviting a bunch of their poly friends, then people inviting people they had high match percentages with on okcupid, and has since exploded into a large, poly centered, social network. There’s multiple events every week, and though I’ve only been to one, it makes me happy that this group exists, especially since it only barely overlaps with my pre-existing polyamory network. There’s so many more of us out there than I realized!

But the community is not as diverse as I’d like it to be. Many people practice hierarchical poly (which I kind of do just not really in those words), and have only one primary, generally someone they’re married to. I don’t very often encounter people whose longest relationship started off open, There’s often the husband/wife versus the boyfriends/girlfriends. I don’t see many people who refer to having husbands or wives, even the ones who I believe would in fact say that they have more than one primary.

There’s also the interesting continued separation between the heterosexual and homosexual populations. The polyamory community that calls what they do polyamory, seems to be mainly heterosexual and bisexual, with occasional homosexual people mixed in but not as many as I’d expect. It does seem like the term is becoming more widely used though, so I think over time the demographics might blend more, and already are.

And, of course, it’s not very racially diverse, but it’s Rainy City, and it’s a fringe social group. So that’s just expected.

I also have no idea about economic and educational level diversity. It does seem relatively spread out, but I’m not sure how much.

But back to the Primary thing. There’s lot of talk about about to do hierarchies “right” (ie, in an open, honest and kind way), and now there’s new and evolving discussion about how to do not having a primary at all (solo polyamory), but I’d love to see more discussion about having multiple “primaries”, especially in a V structure. I know other Vees exist. I’m friends with at least one, and I’ve seen others mentioned on the poly subreddit, but I don’t see a lot of more theoretical discussion about this configuration, especially when it’s one woman and two men, not one man and two women.

I guess this is one of those situations where I might just have to be the change I want to see, which is part of why I started this blog. Because I felt like there were a lot of things about my relationship structure that didn’t quite fit in with the majority of discussions I see. I’m not entirely sure what I feel is missing from the discussion. I’m not looking for answers to my questions, because I know that only Catalyst, Ember and I can solve our problems. Maybe what I’m looking for is just more connection, more affirmation.

Priorities

So what does prioritizing the group mean? It isn’t sacrificing all our wants and desires for the sake of the group. Ember has an excellent job down in the Bay Area, and it would not make sense for him to quit, or even to transfer to Rainy City just yet; he’s still got a minimum of 6 months to a year left to really round out the experience (he only started working there last December). Prioritizing the group is being more transparent about what everyone’s goals are, and trying to sync our lives as much as we can. It’s about creating a loving, supportive unit of people who help each other fly, not clip each other’s wings just to keep them close.

There will, certainly, be times when we will have to give things up for each other, but sacrifices will never be asked for lightly.

Ember is planning to visit again in October, and this time for a week. We haven’t really fallen into a proper visit routine, ever since I moved out of the Midwest. We’re both used to his visits being all about spending time with just each other, maybe with the occasional social outing together. I now live in a city where he has other friends, and a not-quite-but-sort-of girlfriend, and I don’t think it would be right for me to expect him to only spend time with me, and to have to arrange separate visits to see the other people he knows in Rainy City. I am the only one who contributes toward paying for his plane ticket, but that doesn’t mean that I own his time (even though sometimes I wish it did).

Visiting me now that I live with Catalyst means that time Ember and I spend alone is explicitly time we are not spending with Catalyst. It would be unreasonable to exclude Catalyst from our interactions the entire time Ember is visiting, but it also would be unreasonable for Ember to not get any significant one on one time with me at all. Plus I think we’re going to aim for Catalyst and Ember to spend some one on one time together as well.

This is the first time Ember is visiting for this long, so there’s going to be a lot of talking about his schedule. We’ve had a few hitches in how his shorter visits have gone (entirely due to miscommunication and lack of communication about expectations), so hopefully we’ve learned our lessons and this visit will go much smoother with less ruffling of feathers. :)
In other news, I just wrote this at work. This rotation is amazing! (minus the incredibly tragic patients…)

Creating family

So on Friday, Catalyst, Ember and I had a several hour long serious discussion about our relationships and moving forward (and then we played video games and ran around shooting stuff together). It didn’t go quite how I expected it to, but it ended up in a good place for us as a unit.

The summary is that we’ve agreed to prioritize the group over individual desires, and that we’re not going to make big decisions without coming to a group agreement. Though a subtle switch from how we’ve previously handled things, this is an important one. In the past it’s been more a collection of relationships where we all like each other and want the best for each other, but were still functioning more in dyads or as individuals. Now we’re explicitly saying that no, this isn’t Kitty dating Ember, and Kitty dating Catalyst. This is Kitty and Ember and Catalyst trying to create a future together.

It’s particularly scary for me, the one in the group with the strongest drive to have and raise children, because this means I’m saying that I’m not having children unless everyone’s on board with raising kids (which is not currently the case). However, saying that I’m going to wait until everyone’s on board (or never have kids) allows us all to start taking actions toward creating life together now. The way it used to be, it was two of us starting a life together (kind of sort of, in a weird semi-limbo state) and waiting for the other to decide if they wanted to join in, or if they were going to have to leave the relationship. It did not create a comfortable, safe place for all three of us to grow together.

It’s still not a very stable place. A lot remains up in the air (legal marriage, for example), and Ember still lives in another state. But it’s a start, and we’ve got to start somewhere. :)

So yup, polyamory’s still hard, but I still think it’s worth it.

Three is complicated

I backed Ember into a corner last week, during a really tough and emotional time for him, and the result wasn’t pretty. I made a big mistake, and we’ve talked over how to avoid something like that happening again. He gave me a list of signs for how to tell when he’s having a stressful week that’s just another stressful week, and when he’s having a stressful week where I need to back off unless something is immediately and intensely important, which is just general good information.

But another thing that came from it was Ember deciding that we really need to just go ahead and start tackling some of the big serious issues, and we need to start tackling them as a group, not just talking in pairs and relying info and thoughts in bits and pieces. We started on Monday with Ember giving us a rundown of the unresolved issues he was aware of. We’re not expecting to be able to make decisions on everything, but we want to make the decisions we can, and we want everyone to be aware of what the pending decisions and options are.

So that post about balance? Things just escalated another level, and I feel like I’ve gone from walking along a ledge to trying to run on a tight rope. Perhaps not quite that drastic of a change, but life is complicated and the three of us are all left going, “Ok. So this is a problem. How the fuck do we fix this?”

The problems? Kids and legal marriage. We haven’t reached a group consensus about living together and raising kids together (or one of us being okay still being a part of a close relationship if the other two are raising kids), and then there’s also the problem of, which of them do I legally marry? Catalyst, Ember, or neither of them? The children issue was a known one, but the marriage one is a very, very recent development. It’s barely even been months (has it even been months?) since marrying Catalyst was even something that could be an option! (Catalyst and Dreamer are not divorced yet, but it’s going to happen unless there’s a drastic and surprising change).

I think I’d honestly just decide not to legally marry either of them, except there’s pretty strong legal reasons to marry Ember. Unfortunately, Catalyst is having a knee jerk reaction to the idea of being an unmarried man involved with a married woman. More importantly, he’s feeling uncomfortable with the idea of being an unmarried man having children with a married woman. Well fuck. So we need to untangle and understand his reaction, and then figure out what to do. Ember refuses to get married without Catalyst being completely on board, and I admit I’m glad that’s the stance he’s taking. I’m also really glad that Catalyst trusted us enough to actually express his feelings, because that can’t have been easy.

In other news, I’m working fewer hours, and today I learned that I might not actually have to go to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Also, I’m in love with two amazing men who apparently both would like to marry me (not necessarily for the most romantic of reasons but hey, it’s something) and are working really hard to figure out what we’re going to do about the fact that that’s impossible right now. I think I’m still winning.

Balance

My life is very off balance these days. I’m short on time, and it feels like I’m just barely keeping afloat and not getting any closer to the shore. Ember and Catalyst are fairly tolerant and accustomed to the constant cycling I go through, but I know I can’t expect life to completely pause because I’m working longer hours, and I don’t want life to pause. I want this year to be one of general progress, as minor as it may be in the end.

I struggle with keeping my relationships balanced, or maybe I’m not actually struggling. Maybe it just feels that way because I want a lot more stability than my life can currently give me. I’m trying to reach an equilibrium where both my boyfriends have more long term, sustainable things that make them feel loved and special to me. A lot of the default things, like “I’m the only one she says ‘I love you’ to,” or “I’m the only one she watches this show with,” or “I’m the only one she sleeps with,” or “I’m the one everyone knows is her true love” become harder when you have at least two people you love, when there’s at least two people you could be watching any given show or movie with. When one partner happened to be a part of your life before the other, so there are certain things that would have happened already in the new relationship, but you’re still taking it slowly because you’re trying to respect the first partner’s boundaries. When you happen to live with one and not the other, so certain things are just, by default, much easier and more natural.

They both really like each other and care about each other, and they respect the relationships each has with me. And yet sometimes I feel like I’m advocating both sides of a (weirdly amicable) trial. Pushing one’s boundaries on an issue then turning around and trying to minimize the other’s expectations. I can only imagine how much harder this would be if they weren’t such good friends.

I suppose it’s better that they both see things about the other relationship that they wish they had, than for one of them to feel completely satisfied and the other feel neglected. But I want to be at a place where each relationship is better able to hold its own and not warrant comparison. I want to be in a place where feeling special to me doesn’t have to mean denying something to the other, where making someone feel safe doesn’t mean holding back.