semi-poly

I hope I’m not belabour­ing the point when I say I’ve suf­fered a lone­ly exis­tence. For much of my life, I’ve kept those clos­est to me at arms-length, out of a sub­con­scious fear that they’d hurt me. I could nev­er turn to my par­ents for any kind of sup­port, cause they were more con­cerned about how I made them appear than how I felt; I had no sib­lings with which to form an alliance when they became my great­est ene­my. The best friend I car­ried into adult­hood was a per­son who nev­er tru­ly under­stood me, and my best friend after that aban­doned me at the first sign of difficulty.

Managing my rela­tion­ship needs has been a life­long strug­gle. Much of the grow­ing I’ve done (or been forced to do) is inter­twined with the soli­tude I’ve faced; being able to change myself gives me a small sense of con­trol in what would oth­er­wise be a messy and chaot­ic exis­tence. An added dif­fi­cul­ty is that I keep evolv­ing, and my social needs evolve in turn. It takes years to devel­op the kinds of rela­tion­ships that nur­ture me. I’m in the mid­dle of a tran­si­tion, and my sup­port net­work is the small­est it’s ever been.

Living with a part­ner has helped, but at some point my attach­ment to Heather grew unhealthy. It’s not fair for me to put so much pres­sure on her to be my lover, friend, ther­a­pist, care­tak­er, gam­ing bud­dy…every­thing. When I start to resent her for my needs going unmet, I know I’m in a bad place and need to check myself.

I didn’t know any­one else faced this par­tic­u­lar kind of strug­gle, until Tiana shared this arti­cle with me. It was val­i­dat­ing to dis­cov­er how much I relat­ed to the author’s attempts to form rela­tion­ships, whether pla­ton­ic or roman­tic; in her, I final­ly found some­one who under­stood the com­plex­i­ties of lone­li­ness. She nev­er sim­ply believes “I’m lone­ly cause I’m fat”, and takes as much respon­si­bil­i­ty as she can for her social iso­la­tion. I began to under­stand that there’s only so much any­one can do, and a lot that’s out of my con­trol when it comes to con­nect­ing with peo­ple. With that under­stand­ing, I was final­ly able to start for­giv­ing instead of blam­ing myself.

It was also com­fort­ing to know that some­one else was tired of the unwrit­ten rule in our cul­ture where peo­ple out­side the imme­di­ate fam­i­ly aren’t con­sid­ered as wor­thy of emo­tion­al resources; some­thing that was extreme­ly dif­fi­cult for me to deal with when sin­gle. I had many friend­ships fall apart in my mid-20s as mar­riages became the new pri­or­i­ty. The prob­lem was that I was nev­er inter­est­ed in that for myself. I nev­er want­ed my entire life based around a sin­gle rela­tion­ship; it made more sense to me that a mar­riage be part of a sup­port net­work, not the entire net­work itself. And yet the atti­tude is so pre­vail­ing that when I once turned to a ther­a­pist about this, he thought it would be eas­i­est to cope by par­tic­i­pat­ing in my own oppres­sion and focus­ing on the pur­suit of a roman­tic partner.

As I col­lect more gui­tars — each one with their own dis­tinct sound and feel, each one unique and spe­cial in their own way — I’ve come to real­ize that I’m not par­tic­u­lar­ly attached to monogamy. I like the idea cause it makes my rela­tion­ship with Heather more spe­cial, but remov­ing that aspect doesn’t inval­i­date the amaz­ing things we share. In fact, I trust her more after know­ing she’s will­ing to put my hap­pi­ness above her own, and we get to grow togeth­er as we explore some­thing new and exciting.

Moving towards eth­i­cal non-monogamy feels like a nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion, as the line between friend and lover have become blurred. At the same time, I’ve suf­fered through so many dead-end rela­tion­ships and unre­quit­ed romances that I pre­fer to be the only roman­tic part­ner in Heather’s life. Fortunately, this isn’t a prob­lem for us, cause I’m enough for her (at the moment); between her fam­i­ly, friends, and co-work­ers, her social needs are being met, and we’ll deal with that if it ever changes.

So we’ve agreed that hav­ing semi-polyamorous rela­tion­ship makes sense, not because I’m unhap­py in my roman­tic life, but because being roman­ti­cal­ly involved with some­one is the most prac­ti­cal way of con­nect­ing with peo­ple1. I can’t say our rela­tion­ship will always have an ele­ment of polyamory, but it feels like the right step, and I’m try­ing to enjoy dat­ing once again.

  1. When I tried to explain my ther­a­pist about hav­ing a par­tial­ly open rela­tion­ship, he first sug­gest­ed it might be a red flag for self-sab­o­tage until I explained it to him in these terms. []

One comment

  1. Hi. Interesting blog. I we a lot of myself in you. How did the poly exper­i­ment go?

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