(from my paper journal 2-10-13. Raw contents below)
It is 3:30 AM, and I’ve got things on my mind.
The other night, I had the opportunity to ask someone any question that I wanted…for free…but I could not think of anything to ask that was ‘safe’ for me to know. I want answers, sure…but when faced with such a lovely opportunity, I felt that if I asked something that had been really weighing on me, I felt that one, possibly two things would happen:
a) I would get an answer, and be disturbed by it. Could I handle the answer? Such as the comment, Oh do you really want to know? ‘cause once I give you an answer, that means that you’ll have to deal with the issue at hand, which is the issue you are asking about, isn’t it?
b) No matter how I feel about the answer, I do feel that my asking would definitely mean that I have to deal with it. In some ways, I feel that the asking would require opening the door to dealing with things that I might not want to deal with right now. Sometimes I think I have enough on my plate.
But still the conversation was a good one.
And it gave me other food for thought, and caused a musing which I am working out here:
At one point in the conversation, my divine friend muttered, Oh well, but you are married.
As if I thought his interest in me was not legitimate.
(Wait now, there’s a traditional monogamous response. But if it was not – and monogamy shouldn’t come from me because my husband and I consider ourselves poly — I realized another angle that he could’ve been getting at.)
I realized that – while it might have been a tad bit disrespectful – I could have shot back, Well, so are you. You are married to someone, too — and several dozen others, I might add –so what is your point? You want to talk about monogamy?
I’m not monogamous. I’m polyamorous.(Ah, l’esprit d’escalier…where were you?)
(But that is where I wonder if the human filter comes into play, too, but I’m going to put that discussion aside for right now.)
Either way,I suppose that it would have been disrespectful calling my friend out like so, but there may be a kernel of something else embedded in his statement, because further on, I recall there being some difficulty. “He’s talking about things that I don’t understand…”
And I for one was curious about these things that weren’t understood, and I wonder if they have anything to do with the thoughts that kept me awake tonight.
Much as the world doesn’t need more categorization, I do think that it is human nature to try to categorize anyway. It helps our understanding, this need to break down situations into smaller, easier pieces.
There is talk of hierarchies and how they are bad, and some polyamorous people might even insist that all of their relationships are equally weighted in polyamory. Some of these poly folks dislike using terms such as ‘primary’ partner and ‘secondary’ partner, because that implies that the ‘primary’ is the most important relationship, and furthering that logic, doesn’t that mean that a secondary is…’second best’?
In theory, no…but in practice, maybe, yes. Does anybody ever want to feel ‘second best’?**
Our egos say ‘no, of course not.’ But polyamory done in reality does cause one participating in a polyamorous relationship to confront, or at least unpack, one’s views on that very situation. I would hazard to guess that most people participating in polyamorous relationships today were raised by parents living in a monogamous relationship, and so, just like polytheistic pagans who come from monotheistic religious backgrounds, people living in polyamorous relationships are also dealing with the first step of unpacking what having multiple partners is going to mean to them, and to the people in the relationships with them. And that can be hard work, trying to create a working relationship dynamic that involves several people, rather than just you and one other person. One must examine one’s personal values and priorities in relationships. One must hone one’s communication skills. Lots of thought and action needs to be done in order for any good relationship to work, let alone, a polyamorous relationship to work.
This is where I might get a little personal when I point out that I believe that the polyamorous relationships that have a greater potential to go awry are the ones that begin with a couple who are *primarily involved* in a term-committed dynamic with each other (whether it’s a long term committed relationship, a BDSM structured dynamic, or a marriage), and a third party (or parties) become involved.
There doesn’t even have to be love involved; the key is the commitment, or perhaps even the intensity of the existing relationship. Some poly people call this ‘opening up’ a relationship, and if one started from a committed primary relationship, it definitely is.
Why do I say that there is so much more to go awry? Well because in any structured committed relationship in a couple – egalitarian or not – the dynamic involves people placing significance on another, or at least, resolving to pay some significant attention to one another. Whether they formally promised to or not, there is the assumption that each is seeing the other as important, special, what-have-you. We are in a relationship. We matter to each other. We are a team; we are a two person dynamic.
But here comes a third person. Now that third person may be single, or may be in another relationship themselves (with or without varying levels of commitment), but in that third person wanting to have a relationship with one (or even both) of you, that third person is going to have an impact on the existing relationship of the couple(s) involved. This is why there is a saying in polyamorous circles that the three important rules of polyamory are:
And I would also say this about a lot more than polyamorous relationships – any relationship with human beings can always stand to involve better, if not more, communication.
And I will tell you that the first thing that essentially comes up is attention. And this is where the math agony comes in. The primarily committed relationship might have had a factor of two. Even if it wasn’t a perfect 50-50, it was there.
You are my partner, and I am your partner. Whether or not you talked about it, your relationship required you to involve that one other person in your math calculations every day. That person (your partner) may have only gotten 30% of your time and attention for the day, because your partner might be competing for attention against the 70% of your other daily time and attention commitments (job, kids, daily commute, household chores, etc), but there was an unspoken resolution that you were going to spend some portion of your day at least being aware of each other’s existence, even if it’s only in thoughts, rather than physical presence.
But here’s this third person, who wants to have a relationship with you. How much time/attention/commitment does s/he get? That third person and the relationship that s/he represents, is going to require a piece in your personal equation, as it would be with any other commitment in your life. To be fair, is it a factor of 3 now? Maybe, maybe not. How important is s/he to you?
If I was going to be mathematically PC about it, I’d say that the third probably deserves at least a third of your ‘relationship equation,’ right?
But, speaking as a person who has made these mistakes, people aren’t always able to fit neatly into mathematical equations. Sometimes, one partner – and the relationship –requires more attention/time/commitment than others.
In my personal experience – especially in the relationship that ended as of late – you can believe that you have a nice three-way egalitarian relationship, and you might even have that, to some degree. The goal is that all of your partners feel loved, cherished, and important in your life (and in each other’s lives, as the case may be.) That is some smooth sailing polyamory. You’ve accomplished a delightful almost magical synergy when everything falls together, and you’re all in sync, even if you are not involved with each other. (Even though, supposedly, we were involved with each other.)
That’s where communication comes in. You can’t have synergy if there is a lack of communication anywhere in the system. That creates a gap between what you believe you have and what you actually have in terms of the relationship, and that can be a problem. I will be honest, that commitment to honest communication is a very important part.
But when two becomes three is the hardest part.
Even if the situation wherein ‘the initial primary partner has an issue with all the attention/significance lavished on another partner’ is a more common thorny issue in polyamory, there are other issues that can – and sometimes do – crop up often.
In my experience, the above situation is cake compared to this one:
This is when one partner has to convince one of the two in your triad that the existence of the main relationships –or other significant relationships – shouldn’t create a crisis of belief.
“You have a primary/significant/term relationship that existed before I came along. That means that I am not as significant as the pre-existing one.” ( Or as it is more commonly put, “Oh well, but you’re married. I don’t want to be anybody’s secondary…”)
Though, I believe that these two scenarios actually spring from the same issue at the heart of it: relationship imbalance.
Is this monogamy talking? Or at least, a line of thinking framed in a monogamous paradigm.
That, my friends, gives me all sorts of feelings today.
Are relationships in polyamory actually equal?
In theory, yes. In practice, perhaps, no
Even if you don’t use the words ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ and what have you, the hierarchy can still be there in some slight way. Most would assume that a husband/wife, by its socially sanctioned definition, is more significant than a boyfriend/girlfriend.
But it depends on how you define those terms. And as it is with any socially significant word (a signifier, I suppose) husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, there’s an emotionally charged social shorthand that can be extremely difficult to get around.
For example, if you had asked me several years ago, did I want to have equal relationships with more than one person, I would have told you yes.
So why did I get married?
For many reasons, but not because I thought that my husband was going to be the single, most important person in my life, possibly for all time….which is how a lot of folks (polyamorous included!) see the emotional meaning of husband/wife.
I see being a wife differently. I definitely see it as a term of commitment – I made a significant commitment, and I wear a ring as a tangible sign of that commitment – but its meaning, to me, is not nearly as singularly narrow a definition as what most people might think.
Do I feel naked without that ring? Yes, but I think that it is more likely because I have been wearing it for 20 years, so it has made its mark on my finger.
And yes, I believe in marks.
And I believe in the weight of them.
So, how does my polyamory relate to the Gods?
I am attempting to sort that out.
“Oh well, but you’re married.”
Maybe the angle my lovely friend wishes me to consider is this: He doesn’t want to be my third; he doesn’t want to be my secondary, either. He wants himself and any and all work that he requires to be of primary importance.
Marriages are commitments. Marriages tangle wyrd. Marriages require negotiation. Marriages carry social and emotional weight.
I was arguing in my head right then, and I think on this more and more as the day goes on.
Well so are you. You’re married as well. I can think of at least three marriages of yours that I could read about in most university libraries.
And then, dozens more that I’ve heard of…and even if they aren’t all written down for me to read, I’ve no doubt that you’ve left your mark on ALL of them.
So, I’m polyamorous. It’s not like my marriage gets in the way like you might think.
Or does it?
Does he know how much this connects? I realize that I have a little bit of leftover rage that I’m feeling…that not necessarily at him, but definitely at those words.
Rage towards recent ex who tried to shut me down with those very words.
(Isn’t that what she was screaming? ** Oh, well, but you’re married! You. Wouldn’t. Understand.)
I could never understand, in her opinion.
Because I drank the KoolAid.
Because I wore the ring.
Because I made a commitment. ( Marriage was, oddly, a commitment that she could never make, she insisted, as she called me from the restroom of a VFW in Atlanta. She was attnding the October wedding of an ex-girlfriend of hers. I hate weddings, she said.)
I never knew what she meant, but that was her excuse. That was her block. She saw it as such a separation. The fact that I was married to someone had so much meaning, even though I was married to a man, and she often claimed that she loved him too.
I did not know what she meant when she screamed those very same words at me that night, or why she wanted to punch me while saying them…
But I opened my mouth and I let my own self go to a very dark, surreal place, and let’s just say that, we had our own Heathir-senna right then and there.
All the words just poured out.
And I left.
“Oh well, but you’re married.”
I wrote that all out just now –about J and that night that we broke up — and I don’t know if I want to laugh or flail.
The words that I said to her that night felt like the truth, even though they hurt us all very badly.
I have never made anyone that I love cry as hard as I did that night, but there was something also very necessary about them.
I remember what I said.
I hope that I don’t soon forget.
(But now the question remains – for my sock puppets to debate endlessly I guess –)
If there isn’t any such thing as a coincidence:
Why would he choose those very words to say to me on a Friday night, over a month later?
I read with interest Del’s latest entry about sacrifice and spiritwork.
And highlighted for me, again, is the message that the Gods will remove what gets in the way of the work.
And so I ponder Del’s entry, my sock puppets and I.
I cannot sleep and I cannot stop for my pondering of All These Things.
I am pondering about Loki, polyamory, spirit work, the meaning of ‘opening up’, and the nature of these coincidences that may or may not be… coincidences.
And I know — because hopefully, I am learning — to hold my tongue on asking any direct questions until I figure out as the whether or not I can handle the answers.
But as the questions come up, I write them on the whiteboard, because it is something worth thinking about.
If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me,
Threatening the life it belongs to
And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to
But despite everything, there is love.