It’s apparently National Coming Out Day, and sadly the post that’s been brewing in my mind is about not coming out to my parents.
They’re back in the US again, and after much hesitation, I decided to visit them last weekend. It was a pleasant, short visit (I arrived very early Saturday morning, in time for breakfast, and left Sunday evening), and of course included my mother continuing to be baffled about why Ember and I aren’t at least engaged yet.
Saturday night, my mother emailed me a New York Times article called “Great Betrayals.” She’s in the habit of emailing out NYT articles, and she sends me everything remotely interesting that has anything to do with mental health or psychiatry; by which I mean, I don’t think she sent this article because she suspects I’m hiding anything from her.
Nevertheless, the sick feeling in my stomach that is present before, during, and after my visits with my parents intensified for a few hours after reading that article. I don’t like hiding my relationship with Catalyst from them, and I don’t like the unfair perception that Ember is not doing right by me because he’s dragging his heels about getting married.
I don’t know when to come out, and I don’t know how to do it. Most likely, I’ll do it over email, but should I do it right before or during a visit to see them? Right after? At some point when there will be months before I see them again or just a few days or weeks? I’ve graduated from medical school, I have no debt, and I’m solidly employed. While the financial assistance I get from them is amazing, I can support myself and my current lifestyle with my own salary.
So what am I waiting for? I’m not sure. One of my brothers thinks that I need to keep biding my time, let them mellow with age for a bit longer. But the emotional stress that I go through surrounding each time I see my parents feels terrible. There are worse things in life to go through, I see them every day, but why continue to put myself through this? Is parental disapproval/rejection really going to feel that much worse? I’m not sure.
In the meantime, I’m trying to strengthen my general relationship with my parents, but admittedly doing a poor job of it. It’s hard to open yourself up to people and get to know them better when you’re hiding such a significant part of yourself. I just don’t feel motivated to call or email because if I have to leave this out, why bother saying anything? It’s hard especially with my father, because we’ve just never really had a close relationship. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this here before or not, but there were times when my mother would intentionally step out of the kitchen in hopes that maybe the two of us would actually talk to each other.
But I’m trying, and he’s trying too. He took me shopping to buy me some new shoes as a birthday present(they’re pretty amazing, I have to say), and got to experience how my indecision extends far beyond taking forever to order food at restaurants. He really shouldn’t be surprised that I couldn’t pick just one boyfriend. ;)
I am, at least, out to several monogamous friends, to my siblings, and to some coworkers, so I’m doing some small part to increase poly (and bi) visibility. Ember is in town for two weekends (yay! he arrived late last night), and I’m bringing both him and Catalyst to a potluck that one of my co-interns is throwing for all the first year psychiatry residents (there’s 15 of us and we range in age from 25/26 to 51).
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.
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.
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…)
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.
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.