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).
I wish I didn’t feel like I had to say this, but I don’t believe that there’s any one right or better way to do relationships. Monogamy, polyamory, swinging, hierarchies, living together, living apart, etc. I think there are some characteristics of a healthy relationship that are valid for pretty much any relationship type, romantic or platonic, but beyond that, I really believe that there’s an extensive spectrum of relationship variety with a plethora of viable options.
When I talk about certain things making more sense than others, I’m talking from my current perspective, based on the relationships I’m in, and the people I’m in relationships with. My opinion could change in a few years, and it would be different today if I was dating different people.
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.
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.
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…)