Hi there everyone,
I’m betting a bunch of you saw Caroline on WTTW this evening, as part of a panel on Chicago Tonight! The video is here, and the write-up on the WTTW website is over here!
If you’re curious about the Chicago Polyamory Connection, you can find out a bit more about us over here. The main event we host is Chicago Poly Cocktails, which is the second Monday of every month. We also host a bunch of other events with the Chicago Polyamory Meetup Group.
And there’s a blog here as well, if you feel like scrolling through our musings.
Thanks for stopping by!
This is the eleventh in a series of entries about the little parts of polyamory, from individual perspectives.
All of my relationships right now are big, multi-year, heavy commitment relationships. I’m so grateful that these people are in my life, and I feel secure and happy with them. Thinking about the history that we have and the love that is there makes my life so much happier than it would be otherwise.
But long term relationships can lack that same level of excitement and NRE that meeting and dating someone new brings. Not better or worse, but just different than a new relationship. Instead of focusing on learning about each other and being in the excitement of it all, longer relationships focus on those comfortable moments of knowing one another, and feeling bonded together. The little differences between dopamine and oxytocin, or something like that.
I’ve been thinking about this lately, and how much I am really enjoying all of those little things that exist in these longer relationships. Those little shortcuts in communication that come from knowing another person so well. Knowing that the blankets on the bed are either going to be organized a certain way (or terribly disorganized in a certain way). Having shared moments that echo through as a common reference point. Inside jokes that don’t make sense to anyone else. Those are very valuable to me, and when I am conscious of them it is so heartwarming to me.
it’s also those little activities that I enjoy as well. Something as simple as grocery shopping, or trying to make a meal together. I am not a cook by any means, and I think dinners are usually greatly improved if I take a cleaning role rather than directly interacting with the food. But I’ve been experimenting with cooking in my relationships lately, and I’ve found a new appreciation for the time and teamwork that goes into that process. I’m not sure that I would have opened myself up to what feels like a tiny,risky experiment if I wasn’t in the kind of relationships that feel secure.
I feel lucky and very happy to see and recognize those little things. I know my life is so much better because of their presence.
I’ve run into a little problem lately that I want to air out.
I’ve encountered this in a few places lately. After a few months of getting comfortable, I’ve started the slow process of coming out at work. It’s been going pretty well so far, which has been a great relief. The conversations are a bit awkward because my coworkers have never really conceptualized polyamory in a concrete way. So they ask the somewhat regular gamut of questions one encounters in that situation. But the question about the number has seemed to come from a place of scandal and intrigue in a way that I’ve had a hard time understanding.
I’ve also run into this a bit at cocktails and other poly events. I touched on this a bit a while ago. Folks new to poly, especially men that are brand new to things, always take the number asan indication of how “successful” I am at polyamory, or even relationships. While I do understand a bit about where that comes from, this isn’t how I come at it at all.
I think, and I know others do too, that polyamory is much more about how you construct and approach all relationships. It’s about introspection and boundaries and communication and trust and calendars and philosophy. Boiling it down to a number that goes on a scoreboard is minimizing at best. It tries to quantify something that is inherently unquantifiable. My relationships are all multifaceted and enormous, and trying to boil them down to a hash mark feels super wrong.
Yes, there is a number of people who I am seeing. But that number is the just the tip of this very large iceberg, and I’m afraid that people will pay attention to the number, and skip over what that really means to me. Especially when a lot of the context of polyamorous experience is absent. So I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of two conversations: one that I really want to have, and one that I feel like I need to have.
Does this resonate with anyone else? How do you handle these situations?
I’ve thought a lot about compersion lately, and the abstract and concrete ways that compersion comes into my life. I want to appreciate those moments that are unique in my life because of polyamory, and especially those that are special and rewarding to me. And this got me thinking about all of those leftovers.
This is the merguez with couscous that was accidentally left in my fridge that my wife was able to have for lunch the next day. Or half a chicken left over from a night out at Crisp that is intentionally saved for my girlfriend’s husband. Or the variety of booze and cider that seems to get moved around the city for all to eventually enjoy. These little slices become indicators and tokens sometimes, and I like the way that this is a system in which I can take part.
I noticed this a few years ago, when I developed a absentminded habit of leaving behind half of my 2 Amigos burrito in my girlfriend’s fridge. I worried that her husband would see this as evidence of my presence, and it would bring up complicated feelings for him. And all it really did was give him half a burrito, which he was happy to have and happy to eat for me. That was an important lesson for me to have at the time, and it really made me feel much of comfortable in that aspect of my relationship with her and with him.
It becomes an opportunity to think about things differently, and appreciate the good things that these other relationships bring into my life. Yes, my wife and her boyfriend went out for dinner, and then he stayed over that night. But the next night I get to crack into that left over penne, knowing it’s origin and being able to appreciate that in an extra way. Or, as it became with that half of a burrito, a way to bring a different facet into my interaction with my metamour. It is nourishing, both literally and figuratively.
In my life, the thing I am absolutely the worst at is time. I’m pretty absent-minded, and I have a hard time remembering what I said I would do, let along when I said I would do it. Both at work and home, this is probably the area that I trip up on the most. This is why I need to remind myself to update the calendar when there is something to go on there, even if it isn’t a date. Making sure that I’m keeping track of myself and how I plan out my time is definitely something that I work on regularly, and something that I dearly want to improve.
Scheduling is all the more important in a poly context. As the old trope goes: love may be infinite, but time isn’t. I think the part of poly where I have struggled the most is around scheduling. And it falls in three specific areas:
- Overpromising: I want to see the people who I’m seeing. That probably isn’t news. But I want to see them so much that I chunk out as much time as I can afford with people. This sometimes means that I’m giving more time than I actually have, or someone is getting the short stick.
- Transitioning: Sure, I can totally make it across town in ten minutes on the bus with a transfer. Or I’m just running a little late, is that okay for, like, ever pretty much? I’m bad at taking that into account, and sometimes I ask folks to bump back times that we had set before. Or worse, I’m not sure how I’ll make it to see someone, so I’ll leave them hanging while I try to figure it out, so then I’m just leaving this poor person to set their plans on hold because I messed up.
- Not making time for myself: I am notorious for burning my free time so that I can see someone. I don’t have anything planned, so I can totally make plans! Except this cuts my ability to really take care of myself, or rest, or sleep, or anything of that nature. I don’t go to the tanks, and then I’m all grumpy. Or there’s this thing that I really want to sit down and write, but I never take that time for myself, and then I feel all stifled.
As a result of all of this, I end up hurting people. At best, I’m miffed at myself for not taking care of things. At worse, I am hurting my partners for wanting something as simple as consistency. It points right at being an unfair partner.
But, of course, there are things I can do to mitigate all of this. As with all things poly, communication is key. I need to understand and express my needs to my partners, and be able to hear and understand what they need. And then we talk it all out and figure out what works for us, and put it in the calendar, and address those things that are irking us. Which sounds simple in my head as I write that out. This doesn’t make those conversations easy or smooth by any means. But this is the foundation behind it all.
I also find it really important to remember that everyone is really busy and trying to make it all work. I try to understand others needs to adjust schedules, or accommodate if their plans aren’t yet set in stone. This is especially true when it comes to scheduling with my wife, because living together throws an extra set of complications in the mix.
We all want to see each other, and get to spend time together. We’re all on the same team. As long as we can communicate about it, the answers come together eventually.
I know this isn’t news or anything, but it’s been cold here in Chicago. Like massively, intimately, I-can’t-feel-my-extemeties-after-three-minutes cold. Metra has been completely jacked up, and there have been more phantom CTA busses in the last two weeks than I can remember. Simply going outside has reached a level of difficulty that our brethren in warmer climes simply cannot appreciate.
Because of these life threatening conditions, my workplace has allowed us to work from home for a few days. I would have toughed it out and gone into the office, but the option to work in a bathrobe and slippers was too tempting to turn down. My wife does all of her work from home too, so I’ve been able to spend some more time with her than I normally would. I do get in her hair sometimes when she’s trying to focus, but overall it’s a pretty sweet deal.
But there’s one little complicating factor. During the week, I’m not always scheduled to come home after work. Today, in fact, I was supposed to head to Jamie’s after work, and go back into the office the next morning. I’m certainly not going to cancel my time with Jamie because it is cold, but I was missing my usual transition pattern.
So I chose to take care of both problems at once today. I start this morning working at my house, and then at lunch I hopped in the car and came over here to Jamie’s. I’m sitting on her couch now, tapping away at work. My wife gets the house to herself to focus on her work, and I still get to work from home.
I love that my poly life allows me to expand the definition of home, in both concrete and emotional ways. I don’t think this is necessarily what my boss meant by “work from home”, but it certainly what I was thinking about. And if they let me, I’ll be working from home again tomorrow, right here on this couch.
I don’t feel insecure that often in my relationships. I think it’s a testament to being able to communicate with my partners, and know that I can have that dialogue with them if I need to. Sometimes insecure feelings rumble in the background of my emotions, but I’m usually able to hunt it down and address whatever the problem is in a reasonable order.
But every once in a while it reaches a critical mass, and it is totally overwhelming. It can feel like the supports that hold me up are crumbling beneath me. It’s terrifying and strange, and I don’t handle it that well.
Of course, it is usually a symptom that I haven’t been honest about my feelings, or that I have hidden instead of addressing smaller problems that I’ve encountered. But in the moment, the overwhelming panic and worry and hurt inundates me. It clouds my ability to process through those feelings, exacerbating what would otherwise be a bit of work and communication and reflection. It keeps me from hearing what my partners are saying, and instead I’m laying my own feelings on top of their words.
It is so easy in retrospect to pick apart what was actually going on. Once the clouds clear, the answers pop right up. And it’s easy to feel dumb at that point too. There are so many ways to be unfair to ourselves. I instead try to learn from my mistakes, and prepare myself for the next time those feelings wash over me.
But there is a valuable lesson in all of those moments. Because I have been in the midst of those feelings myself, I know what it is like when my partners are in their own insecure places. I know that, while I may not be able to do anything to help process those feelings, the one thing that I can always do is be empathetic and supportive. It is so hard to struggle with those feelings, and just being able to be present and witness their feelings them and talk and cuddle and hold my partners in that moment is all the more important because of my own insecurities.
I think it’s wonderful that we can learn from our own insecure moments, and then use that knowledge to help each other. We can be so deep in those feelings, but we can still have each other.