We’ve hit week eight, and many of us are now communicating in grunts. In the midst of this communication drought, stumbling frantically toward deadlines, and just wanting to survive the rest of term – how will romance survive?
This week I deal with questions about polyamory, communication and being new to the LGBT+ scene. It’s been wonderful to give all of you amazing people advice, and I’m honestly going to really quite miss it. I might even have to start dealing with my own relationship problems (save me, please)! Still, for at least another week, I’m spared…
I’ve been calling myself polyamorous for the past few months. I’ve enjoyed casual sex, going on dates, as well as a more meaningful ‘thing’, which I’m not sure could called a relationship, but nothing exclusive, be it sexually or emotionally. Now I’ve found this person who I have bonded with so deeply, we’ve only known each other for two weeks, but we see each other everyday and are constantly in touch.
They have only ever been in completely monogamous, “stereotypical” relationships before, and they don’t seem to be looking for something more open, although they keep insisting they are very open to new things. I am now trying to figure out what I want, if I want to go completely monogamous with them, or not. I sort of want to be emotionally monogamous with them, but do not want to push away this other person I’ve become really close to, in a very poly way. I would also like the relationship to be open sexually, as I cannot see myself not having sex with other people from time to time, mostly people I actually really like, but only get to see rarely.
How should I go about finding out what I want? How should I talk to the person I’m getting into a relationship with, and the other I’ve gotten close to polyamorously? And most importantly, how do I not hurt anyone in the process, and not come out of this alone?
That’s a hell of a lot of questions there. I guess the first thing to address is what you want. A good friend of mine once said something that made a hell of a lot of sense – the surest way of hurting someone is by trying not to. It seems ridiculous, but we often refrain from a lot of thought required for major decision-making because we’re too busy trying to keep everyone safe. The sad part is that it is not always possible. People are vulnerable, rejection hurts, and you have your own wants and needs too. If your head’s all clouded up with anxiety over what your actions might do, you’re not going to think clearly. Furthermore, if you ignore your own needs, you’ll just end up running into more problems later.
That said, the people involved in whatever decision you make still reserve the right to be communicated with. It can hurt to be left completely out of the loop, especially when you’ve cultivated a deep connection already.
Your decision isn’t mine to make, but in terms of damage prevention- and also good relationship practice, in general- it’s good to check in. Like consent, if in doubt, ask – be open about who you are, what you would like from the situation, and be receptive towards the other peoples’ reactions. Either way, you’re going to have a difficult conversation in some respect – whether it’s asking for sexual non-monogamy with this new person, establishing distance from your previous partner, or communicating generally how your feelings and commitments have changed over time. That’s poly, I’m afraid. It can’t be permanently fine and dandy forever. In the end, it’s a navigation of interpersonal relationships, all of which come with their own personal bundle of dilemmas and difficulties. Reid Mihaiko does a great video on difficult conversations. He suggests that the way in which we communicate is calibrated to be something people will say yes to, rather than saying what we want and giving the person the opportunity to respond positively or negatively on their own terms.
It’s important to voice your preferences with this new person (if you do get involved) and negotiate a kind of relationship that is a compromise between your needs. In addition, you have a responsibility to your previous partners to make sure they’re okay too, and be a listening ear for them if they’re struggling with separation. If you try the easy way out, and skip the difficult conversation part, you’re just going to run into more problems later on. If you’re really feeling as deeply connected as you claim, you owe them that kind of openness.
There’s no guarantee you’ll not end up on your own. It’s indeed possible, in a relationship sense. But to say you’re “alone” invalidates the value of all of your friendships and other connections you have and cultivate in day to day life. Sometimes being honest does land you in relationship limbo, but it is better that than deception and remaining closed in some vague hope to save your own back. In the end, if you practice communication, any relationship you do get into will be much more rewarding and full of respect and mutual connection. I think that’s worth it, don’t you? Relationships don’t come with an insurance policy. It’s that shared vulnerability, so intrinsically part of forming a connection with anyone, that makes them what they are.
I’m a bisexual girl but currently in a long-term relationship with a male. I want to get involved with LGBT+ stuff at University, but haven’t come out to anyone except my sister and boyfriend at the moment. It’d just be nice to get to meet other people like me, but I’m afraid I’ll be judged by others, either for being a ‘fraud’ because I’m in a boy-girl relationship, or as being attention-seeking. Any suggestions for friendly ways to get into LGBT+ University stuff?
Most, if not all, LGBT+ events are no-assumptions. One of the things the ‘+’ stands for is ally (see long version ‘LGBTQAAIQ’). This means that even if you didn’t want to come out, you could attend events and talk to people who are openly LGBT+ about their experiences. You identify as bisexual. Nothing about being in a heterosexual relationship would make you a ‘fraud’. And if you’re afraid of coming out at first, you can simply present as an ‘ally’ for the first few months and see how it goes.
I used to be in a similar situation. I had a male fiancé and I felt like an imposter. But really, the support and conversation I experienced made it all the easier to come out. I don’t know what I would have done without the JCR reps at my college. They completely transformed my confidence and ability to express myself. I promise you, it’s a free and open space of acceptance, and anyone that judges or polices your identity in any way, shape or form is looked down upon by the rest of the LGBT+ community, sometimes banned from events if it all gets too far.
Add yourself to mailing lists and Facebook threads – it’s an easy way to go reasonably unnoticed and yet still see what’s going on. When an event comes up that you’re interested in, attend. LGBT+ coffee can be a good start, it’s usually held at Clowns Café on Sundays. Your JCR LGBT+ officer might hold pre-drinks or events within college, and there are usually drop-in opportunities if you wanted one-on-one advice or guidance. There have also been some wonderful crafts events going on at Newnham College of recent, and, of course, there’s clubbing.
Whatever your fancy, there’s somewhere for you to go and be comfortable. Do come along, we’d love to meet you.
Katt Parkins (GR. Columnist)