Belenen (belenen) wrote,

my relationship styling shifts again: polyamory without defined roles

When I moved from monogamy to polyamory, I wanted to keep the "you're the specialest" feel in all of my romance and sex, so I tried to divide all of my time and effort equally, so that no one was any more special than the other. That wasn't too difficult when I had only one local lover, but it became more difficult when I began seeing more than one local person. And recently I've started questioning why I've been doing that. I think part of the reason was that I always felt like I was "the one who loved more" in all of my relationships (platonic or romantic) and I hated that feeling and wanted to make sure I never made anyone else feel that way. I also hate hierarchy and wanted to be sure I wasn't creating it in my relationships*. But when it came down to it, I was lying to myself in order to maintain a front. The truth was, my "favorite" wasn't everyone at once all the time -- it fluctuated. Sometimes I wanted to spend all of my time with one person, sometimes I actually felt equal desire for each person, sometimes I just wanted the one I was nearest to. But instead of doing what I wanted, I would try to portion myself out equally, often failed, and felt very guilty about it. Then I got stressed about how "bad" I was being at the relationship and wanted it less and less. And every time I said no to some request I felt bad, and started avoiding the person in order to not have to say no.

I've only been with one person for the past three months, yet I still feel guilty about having a "favorite," and have been avoiding new relationships because my attitude has been: if I don't like/love/desire/etc the person as much as the person might want, I shouldn't "get their hopes up." And the idea of being frank with people about how much I want, in all of its fickleness, is really scary. I feel like if I say to someone "I don't feel like spending time with you now or soon" they will hear "I don't care about you and don't want you in my life." That's not the case, but it is often how I feel when people say that to ME (unless they have some "can't help it" excuse). So I guess that restricts me to people who are okay with no time commitments, no structure, no label -- just a connection that will sometimes be a focus for me and sometimes not. It's not that I am completely unwilling to make plans or patterns, but that I need it to be totally okay if they're changed or just gone. Maybe this is an immaturity in me, or maybe it's a healthy/good part of me -- I dunno, I plan to explore it more and find out.

For now I think the way I want to approach relationships is without labels -- in other words, instead of fretting about whether or not a person is "in a relationship" with me and what that means for me commitment-wise, I want to just have relationships and behave in a way that is true to my feelings. Which means I have to learn to be okay with disappointing people, and with saying things that are true and not unkind, but may hurt people anyway. And if I use any label, it will be descriptive (not prescriptive): "lover" will be a word I use to describe the current state of a relationship, not the purpose/role of it.

*I have since realized that there is a difference between creating a hierarchy by setting up a structure bounded by rules (primary, secondary, etc), and simply feeling differently about people. For me, I am being true to my loathing of hierarchy as long as I am not putting up artificial boundaries. And unlike before, I will not define a lack of my time as an artificial boundary. It makes me profoundly uncomfortable to feel like I owe time to someone, and it kills the relationship. I'm willing to negotiate about time, but it will be within the context of what is truest to my desire -- considering the desire of the other, but not responding as if I owe them whatever they desire.

Hmm, also, this new path eliminates the hierarchy between lover and friend in a way that I hadn't been able to before.
Tags: communication / words, polyamory / relationship anarchy, relationships, the essential belenen collection

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