October 2018
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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.

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Comments
dv8dgrrl ══╣╠══
I think you might be surprised at the understanding you find in a response of, "I am really enjoying my time with X and my personal time and unsure when I will have time for other things. I will be happy to let you know as that changes."

I used to suffer through this guilt, not just about being poly, but in my friendships as well. I don't really see the difference between the two, save the physical intimacy. I still do sometimes, but am always amazed how understanding those in my life are, even if on the periphery, when I say, "Not now, but *maybe* later." :)
sidheblessed ══╣╠══
This makes a lot of sense. I've noticed in most group dynamics, your feelings for each person can ebb and flow. Even if we're not talking groups, when you have many connections in your life, sometimes one or two will pull you in harder or deeper. It's not about hierarchy; it's about feelings.

I think you can be honest while trying to be as kind as possible. I really like the phrase that dvd8dgrrl suggested. It gets the message across without saying "I don't want to see you," and put the ball back in your court regarding contact.

The thing is, polyamory, just like monogamy, takes practice. No one is born with all the necessary skills to make a relationship work for them and for everyone else involved. You're new at having in-person polyamorous relationships, so you're still learning how to negotiate your time between multiple people. You'll find a balance though and I think you've made a good first step toward that balance.
Grown up
jenniology ══╣Grown up╠══
As others have said, this makes perfect sense. And I often struggle with admitting my own fickleness in my friendships, especially as I am such a solitary person and really need my own time sometimes - I struggle to tell people like that, because it's so easy for them to interpret it as me blowing them off.
isarma ══╣╠══
My favorite thing about polyamory is that each relationship can be exactly what it's meant to be - no more, no less. I don't have to just "move on" because someone's not an ideal full life mate. Sometimes we feel more or want more from some people than others. I think that's good and natural and it's something we can celebrate:)
ga/ strange and beautiful
acid_burns ══╣ga/ strange and beautiful╠══

It makes me profoundly uncomfortable to feel like I owe time to someone, and it kills the relationship.

THIS!
(Anonymous) ══╣╠══
...people who are okay with no time commitments, no structure....what is truest to your desire? polyamory is one thing but you are like the embodiment of american selfishness here. who cares how anyone else feels, it's about your desire? you are tired of feeling guilty? maybe sometimes guilt isn't really some social force thrust upon you by the patriarchy- and i definitely believe in the patriarchy, don't get me wrong. maybe sometimes guilt is just your conscience telling you you're being shitty. how many people have you hurt in the name of your desire? any animal can act upon pleasure, the real skill is to act with consideration. we have to share this world.
ewwwww
belenen ══╣ewwwww╠══
I don't know who you are but I feel strongly that if you had more faith in what you were saying (and weren't just trolling) you'd sign your name.

I was feeling guilty WHILE being as careful as I could about other people's feelings, and considering them above my own. I wasn't feeling guilty about any of my actions, but about not wanting the same thing other people wanted, which is not within my control. How many people have I hurt in the name of my desire? I hope none. I try to be as clear as I can about what I want and don't, and I do act with consideration. If I hurt someone I try to help heal it. I don't think it is considerate to pretend interest or to date people just because they want me. What exactly are you critiquing here? do you know anything I have done? What makes you think I have acted without consideration?
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.