I recently got a suggestion for a blogging topic from a friend and reader, Michele. She asked,
Do you ever feel “helpless” with being pregnant? What, if any, adjustments did you have to make as a pretty self-reliant, get shit done type?
I love this question because it provides some insight into the way people see us versus the way we see ourselves, which is especially interesting the blogging world, where we’re often communicating with strangers.
I’m going to tackle the second part first. Lean in close, because I’m going to whisper a little secret to you.
I am NOT actually a get shit done kind of person.
|Me, sitting on the couch… NOT a get-shit-done type!|
One of the symptoms of my depression (or whatever you call it) is that the connection between wanting to do something and actually doing it is largely missing in my brain. I spend a lot of time sitting around or laying on the couch desperate to get up and do something and not able to actually move my body to do it. It’s not usually vague desires, either – I’ll be sitting there knowing exactly what I want to be doing but unable to make the motions to do it. The few things that I manage to do – take care of the pigs, write blog posts, etc – sometimes take an extraordinary amount of mental struggle and effort to keep up with.
I realize that blogging can create an unrealistic view of these kinds of things. There’s not much to write about the days I spend laying on the couch despondent. I write about the interesting things happening in my life, but people might take away an unbalanced view of how much space and time in my life those things take up.
Also, I’m not much into physical labor and might not be even if I weren’t depressed. Joshua is. This means that the things that “we” do are a lot of times mostly him doing the doing. I try to be accurate about this when I write, because I want to give credit where credit is due, but since this is my blog and my voice it might not always be clear.
For example, check out my recent post Animal Adventures. I reported on a lot of happenings in that post, all of which I was present for, participated in, and which were important to me, but if you’re really paying attention to the language, a different picture might emerge. In that post, I basically mention two things that I did: I researched the treatment for the chick and took Buck’s bandage off. There are about four main things that I characterize as “we” did: We got Buck in the truck, treated the chick, fed the chick to the pigs, and went out looking for the missing pigs. Everything else, Joshua did: Joshua secured the coop. Joshua led the pigs back home. He handled the dog and talked with animal control. He rigged a catch pen for the sheep and held Buck still.
So, there’s a lot of doing in a post like that, but a great deal of it is Joshua’s labor.
The other word Michele used to describe me is “self-reliant”. Now, that part is a different story. I do consider myself self-reliant. I don’t think it’s an accident that I am paired up with Joshua. It’s not like I consciously chose a partner based on his get-up-and-go, but it’s probably not a coincidence that I don’t have any and Joshua has a whole lot. If I were not with Joshua, my life would look differently based on what I can do for myself alone, but in the meantime, the things that we do together are still things I think of as me doing for myself. It works the other way, too. Joshua appreciates the ideas that I have and the ways that my desires shape the things that he does. For instance, he’s said to me, “Thank you for pigs,” because in a world without me, he never would have owned pigs and they’ve added a lot of enjoyment to his life. There are ways in which Joshua’s labor greatly contributes to the pig project – he built their shed, for instance – but having the pigs and the details of their care are driven by me. Joshua and I take care of and support each other. People work best when they are interconnected, and it’s okay to take credit for the ways you’ve connected yourself to other people.
The other interesting word in the questions is “helpless”, which is another funny language thing to me. I would never describe myself as helpless. I’m not sure I’ve ever in my life had a feeling I would call helpless. I’ve felt a lot of other things, maybe even the same feelings that another person would call helpless, but that’s just not a word that resonates with me. I never fail to take care of myself, at least on a basic level. I think I’m smart, I think I’m resourceful, I think I’m adaptable, and I think that whatever happens I’ll come out just fine.
I thought about this question the other day when I was tired and needed to rest and then a chicken died, and I had the ideas I wrote about in What’s Happening Now. I’ve had a few emergency situations in my life or extreme/intense experiences, and they tend to come out of nowhere. It’s not like you get a notification that there’s going to be an emergency in 10 hours, so you need to take a nap now and get a good meal in you. And it never matters what kind of state I’m in, there’s always more of me available when I need it. The last time the sheep got out, I was already tired, and then I ran around the field 9 months pregnant, and I was both emotionally and physically sore at the end of it. But that can always wait. I always have enough to do whatever needs to be done, and the falling apart can always wait. That’s one of the valuable things I get out of situations like that, and the more dire emergencies I’ve been part of – the certain knowledge that I have reserves, I have inner resources, that even if I don’t use them very often are there when I need them.
But, ultimately, to get back to pregnancy specifically, I think I understand the questions, and I think the answer is that pregnancy hasn’t been much of an adjustment for me, overall. I get tired sooner and more frequently than I did before, but I’ve always felt comfortable napping and getting as much sleep as I need. I have a little bit harder/slower time moving around, but I’ve never been a 1st-across-the-finish-line type. I’m a little moodier, but I’ve always been pretty damn moody. A great truth I’ve been pondering over the last couple of years is that I’m always myself. It doesn’t matter what new situations come along, I’m still me, even if it’s a different me. So, pregnancy has been a relatively easy adjustment, because I’m still here, just being myself.
(Photo credit: Lel4nd)
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Momma Jorge recently asked:
What about compersion? Is that a word that you use? Is it an emotion you have felt? Has it played a role in your relationships?
For those who don’t know, compersion is a feeling of happiness at your partner experiencing happiness with someone else. It could be said to be the opposite of jealousy.
I rarely use the word compersion, because it seems almost odd to me to make it a separate word. This is part of polyamory being such an obvious thing for me. I’m happy when Joshua is happy. Period. When he’s excited about his job, when he wins a game of Zuma, when he’s enjoying the weather… whatever it is, why wouldn’t I be happy that he’s happy? When he’s happy about an experience or feeling with another person, of course I’m happy about that, too. A friend recently told me that she was in love with Joshua. That made me happy. Whenever Joshua tells me about a sexual experience he has with someone else, that makes me happy.
The bottom line is that polyamory and the experiences happening within that context are pretty much all happy for me. And for this last post in this series, that’s the idea I want to express.
When writing or talking about polyamory, I can easily find a gazillion things to bitch about or stress over. I mean, relationships are messy, and polyamory can make for some epic messes. But as I think back over all the years, the whole idea of polyamory is a gigantic bright, beautiful collage for me. It’s rich and wondrous, and I would hate for any of that to get lost in the analysis. Here are some of the wonderful snapshots in my mind.
I’ve been in love a lot, and that love has been freely explored. In the last 6 years, I’ve fallen in love 5 times and had interesting, fulfilling relationships with all of those people, while having loving relationships with other people as well. I would have hated to miss out on all that love. I’m sure some people who are monogamous would naturally never find themselves in love so many times, but others would if they were open to the possibilities. I’m glad that I’ve been open and gotten to experience so much love.
I’ve gotten to see people that I love radiate with love for someone else. The first glimmers of love bring out the shiniest, clearest happiness in a person, and to get to watch that happening in someone I love is a treasure and a privilege.
Being near someone I love who loves someone else gives me a wonderful view of that someone else that I could never see on my own. When my partner falls for someone else, through his eyes I fall for her a little bit, too. This is a magical process that I really, really value.
I’ve had the experience of being in another room of the house and hearing my lover have sex with another lover and knowing exactly what was going on based on the sounds he was making. I find this a highly entertaining feat of intimacy.
I’ve been loved by multiple people at once, having the experience of wherever I turned knowing that I’m loved and supported.
I’ve looked around a room full of 25 people and realized that we were all connected by an interlocking, overlapping web of sex and relationships. It’s a “Wow” realization.
Polyamory has helped create some really amazing sex experiences for me, like having a threesome with two people who know me and each other intimately or having an instructional session with my lover’s lover on ways to please him.
The truth about polyamory is that I’ve loved and been loved by a lot of people and had amazing sex with even more people and been wonderful friends with even more people than that, all facilitated by a relationship idea that makes space for the infinite possibilities of what can occur between people. I honestly cannot imaging being without it. I continue to be polyamorous because I want love and sex and intimacy to continue to flow freely in my life and the lives of the people I love.
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(Photo credit: Aunt Owwee)
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Kitty left this comment on the post The Poly I’m Not (edited for space and clarity):
We have roommates now, so Puck and I are sharing a room for the first time ever. We have always slept in the same bed most of the time, but now his stuff is in my room…We have be dating over 6 years, married 1 now, and yet his things in my room feels like a bit too much commitment for me… But now we have a room. We have a bed. And I must admit that the thought of him having sex in there bothers me. Not the sex part so much. Just the idea of people being in my room when I am not.
So I guess my question is How do you deal with personal space and possessions? Are there things that are just yours? How would you feel about a lover of Joshua’s using those things? Is it different if the person is your friend as well? If you say “please don’t let your new lover borrow my favorite blue sweater” is that a poly rule? If not how does that differ for you from “don’t fuck in my bed” or “don’t use my toothbrush” ?
I’ve known poly people with all sorts of arrangements about ownership of beds and bedrooms. I’ve known a lot more poly people than mono people who have separate bedrooms. It might seem strange at first, but when you’re going to have other people around in your personal space, it just makes sense to have your very own personal space if you can. I would never want to prevent Joshua from fucking someone in his own bed, but if that bed is mine, too, then some logistical problems could arise. Practicalities aside, it’s just nice to have your own personal space. If you can afford it, I advocate for all adults to have their own bedrooms, poly or not.
Personal space and the ways that we mix up space with romantic partners can be really emotionally tricky, though. When I first started out as a poly adult, I was married, and my husband and I always shared a bedroom. As we got older and got better jobs, eventually we got houses where we each had our own bedrooms. Still, I usually ended up in the master bedroom or an otherwise larger space, and he usually had a smaller room, sometimes one that wasn’t actually intended as a bedroom. The result of this was that his personal stuff was usually still stored in my bedroom. I remember the first time he moved his clothes out of my closet. I completely freaked. We’d technically had separate bedrooms for years, but when he moved his clothes out of my closet, it felt like a breakup. Were we growing apart? Was he about to leave me? Was he avoiding me? What did this mean?!? It seems silly to me now, but I really understand when I say that personal space is tricky. With Joshua and me now, all our personal stuff is pretty separate. Nothing of mine is in his bedroom and nothing of his is in my bedroom. When we first moved in together, I was so used to my independence that I kept things like household tools that I brought with me in my room, too. I’ve gradually merged all that stuff, and what remains in my room is all mine. Like Kitty, I get weirded out when people are in my room when I’m not there. Even if that person is Joshua.
I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to be possessive about your things or your space or your time. It’s important to take care of yourself, have a sense of self that’s separate from others, and mind your personal boundaries. When we’re talking about a poly context, it may be more important to mind those boundaries, since we’re often coming into intimate contact with people we wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves, and since the areas of love and sex make us inherently vulnerable. On the other hand, it can be too easy to hide attempts to control our lovers with lofty claims about personal boundaries.
I see Kitty’s question as having two parts – one about the bedroom itself and your lover having sex there with someone else or just being in there without you, and the other part is about personal items like clothes.
For the question about personal items like clothes, your toothbrush, etc, my answer is The Analogy. I waited to answer this question until after The Analogy post had posted, because I realized that would be most of my answer. I wouldn’t want anyone borrowing my clothes without asking, whether that was Joshua, his mom, his lover, a lover of mine, a friend, etc. But I’d probably loan my clothes to pretty much anyone who asked. So if Joshua asked if his new lover could borrow a shirt, and I wanted to say no, I’d have to figure out why I was reacting that way. If a relative of Joshua’s visited while I was away and he gave a tour of the house that included my room, that would probably bother me if I hadn’t had the chance to clean up, but I wouldn’t think he’d done something wrong or violated my personal space in some way. So, ideally, I’d feel the same way if we were talking about a lover. I can think of possessions I have that are really personal to me and I wouldn’t let anyone borrow or interact with under any circumstances. What makes it different from a “poly rule” is that it’s not limited to poly. No one can have it.
With the bedroom itself, I can see that it would be a difficult transition, but I think it’s a transition you’d have to work through. If two people are sharing the same space, I don’t think it would be fair for one person to own it. If it’s your space where you can be alone, have guests, have sex, decorate to your desires, etc, where is the other person’s space where they can do the same? If there’s not enough room for both of you to have personal rooms, then I think you have to reduce the amount of space that you think of as “yours”. The bedroom has to just become the bedroom, not my bedroom. You might have to carve out smaller personal spaces elsewhere (my corner, my dresser, my half of the closet, etc). The question of sex in the bedroom will likely come down to logistics. If one person needs to sleep, the other person can’t be fucking someone else in there. But if there are times when one partner is watching TV elsewhere in the house, out of the house doing something else, or otherwise not using the bedroom, the other partner should probably be able to do whatever they like in the bedroom. Since polyamory is a choice counter to the rest of our culture, we sometimes have to make an effort to make space for polyamory. If you said that you could only fuck at your lover’s house, or only in the garage, or you had to get a hotel room every time you wanted a date, you haven’t made much space for polyamory in your actual lives.
In the Q and A post, I talked about having time limits or action items if one person wants to take poly slow. I’d advise doing that with the bedroom question as well. If you’re going to make a transition from my bedroom to our bedroom, I can see wanting to take that slowly. If that slowly is vague, though, it has the potential to remain a sticking point that never quite gets worked out. It makes sense to sit down and figure out how else you can reorder your idea of personal space (an off-limits corner of the room or whose drawers or whose, for example) and then give yourselves some (specific) time to settle into that. You could say, “I need three weekends to move my stuff around so that I’ll feel comfortable with other people being in here,” for example.
Does anyone else have stories about negotiating personal space or advice on this particular scenario?
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(Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography)
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If I had to pick one thing to give as advice for polyamorous people, the choice would be easy. My favorite idea that I’ve ever had about polyamory that I use all the time, I think of as The Analogy. The idea is very simple: If you’re having a polyamory problem, replace the sex or romance with work or a relative (or other non-touchy topic) instead and see if that helps clear up your thinking about the problem. It’s an analogy, so it’s probably easiest to talk about with specific examples.
Your partner is out on a date with a new person and said he would be back right after dinner. Instead, he’s wandering back in at midnight, saying they had such a good time talking they lost track of time and he forgot to call. You’re furious. If the scenario were instead that he was supposed to be home from work at 8 but got caught up in some big project and forgot to call, would you still be furious? What if he was out with his mother and they got to reminiscing and he forgot to call. Would you still be furious? Why or why not?
Your partner is madly in love with a new person and can’t seem to talk about anything else. Ever. For days. Weeks. Months even. You think you’re being disrespected. You feel disgusted. You want to stab someone. What if the scenario was work? What if your partner had just gotten a new job or a promotion or there was an exiting new project at work that she couldn’t stop talking about? What if your partner had just picked up a new hobby and couldn’t talk about anything but sewing or model cars for weeks on end? Would you still feel the same? In a case like this, maybe you still feel annoyed, because you don’t give a shit about model cars, but if the feeling and the imagined expression of it is a lot less nasty, then it’s worth considering what’s really going on in the poly situation.
It’s your anniversary and you’re out to dinner. Your lover’s other lover called saying she is in the hospital with a broken leg and your lover leaves dinner to rush over there. You think, “That bitch! She knew it was our anniversary, so of course there’s some kind of drama!” What if it had been his mom with a broken leg? What if there had been some emergency at work? I’ve heard people respond to this by saying that the other lover is always causing some kind of problem. But some people’s jobs are one disaster after another. Some people’s relatives are one disaster after another. And these often don’t rate the same kind of judgement. If you would say about the unpredictable job, “Well, it makes it hard to make plans, but he loves the job and it pays really well,” why wouldn’t you say something similarly forgiving about the lover? If you would say about the crisis-prone mom, “She’s got this knack for calling during dinner, bless her heart,” why wouldn’t you be as casual about the lover?
Between her three other boyfriends, you never seem to have enough time with your girlfriend which you respond to with jealousy and perhaps demanding that she stop scheduling so much time with the other people. What if it were your three kids instead? Between school drop offs and pick ups, shuttling everyone to extra-curricular activities, coordinating dinner with everyone, helping with homework, and managing bath and bed time, you never seem to have enough time together as a couple. There may be a valuable conversation to have here about time management or about carving out special time for yourselves, but if your feelings about the two situations are drastically different, then there’s something larger to examine there.
These could go on forever. I’ve found The Analogy to work in an endless number of scenarios over the years. When you plug in work/relatives/hobbies things often look very different. Sometimes this allows you to talk about the situation rationally. You can set aside your jealousy and just express that you’re sad that dinner got interrupted, for example, or you’re wanting to find more time together. Sometimes this points out that what you really have is a problem with polyamory. I’ve met a number of people in polyamorous relationships over the years that I just don’t think were compatible with poly. They’re able to hide this fact, though, because people are really good at rationalizing their feelings and making up reasons that sound good for why they feel like they do. Once you plug in a different topic, though, it becomes clear that they’re really just mad that their partner is fucking or loving someone else. Which makes it kind of hard to be happily poly!
Have you ever used The Analogy to work through a poly issue? What other kinds of poly conflicts have you seen that might benefit from The Analogy?
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