Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sister Time

On Sunday I told my parents about being poly, okay, I used the term open relationship, so they would both know what I was talking about.  As far as it goes, it good have gone much worse.  They weren't horribly judgmental (at least to my face or anywhere I've been able to hear them) and I wasn't disowned or something, so good news in general.

Today I went shopping with Shea, the younger of my two little sisters (she's about to turn 18 and is a senior in high school).  I needed more fabric for Christmas gifts and then we both ran some various other Christmas related errands.  As far as my sisters go, generally Shea is the one I actually tell much about my life.  Carla's mind tends to explode at disruptions to patterns in my normal life.  I've been meaning to talk to her about my open relationship with Boyfriend for awhile, but this is the first chance I've gotten.

Below is the conversation I had with my sister.  I tend to get a little teach-y in situations like that and my sister is still new in her education about sexuality and gender, so pardon us both. 

Me: Do you know what an open relationship is?
Shea: Umm. No. Wait, maybe.
Me: What do you think it is?
Shea: Isn't that where you're seeing one person but you can also mess around with other you're not really dating?
Me: Sorta.  An open relationship does mean that you can see other people, but it doesn't mean that you aren't dating.  Do you know what polyamory is?
Shea: No.
Me: Polyamory is essentially a non-monogamous relationship.  It means that you are dating or fucking multiple people.  It's similar to what you know as the Mormon practice of polygamy, but in a healthy polyamorous relationship everyone has equal power.  Open relationships and polyamory have a lot in common, but open relationships tend to be the better known, more socially acceptable term.
Shea: Oh. So you can date more than one person at once?
Me: Yes.  Polyamory and open relationships operate on the principal that love is not a finite quality.  When you love one person romantically, all of your love isn't used up, like popular culture would have us believe. That's why you can have a crush on more than one person at once.  Love isn't a feeling that can all be used up.
Shea: Oh. That actually makes sense.
Me: I think so......Boyfriend and I are actually in an open relationship.
Shea: You are?
Me: Yeah.  We decided to try it.  There are other people besides Boyfriend I'm interested in and likewise for Boyfriend.
Shea: Oh, okay.  And you guys are both fine with this?
Me: We're both completely okay with this.  I'm really happy with my relationship right now, but sometimes your partner just can't fulfill absolutely everything you need.  Society would tell you to break up, but expecting a person to fulfill your every possible need is just unrealistic.  
Shea: So if you and boyfriend both wanted to date the same person?
Me: Then we would talk to that third person and see if they were interested and we could have a three person relationship, which is generally more difficult than having two separate, two people relationships because it has more complicated, less predictable dynamics.  I'm sorry if this is weirding you out.
Shea: I'm not weirded out, I'm interested.
Me: I'm glad.  But just imagine what it would be like so that if you liked someone else you could just tell your partner and ask them if it was okay you pursued a relationship with them.  Cheating wouldn't be as much of an issue.
Shea: I was actually just thinking about that this morning.
Me: That's awesome.  But you can have cheating in an open or polyamorous relationships.
Shea: You can?
Me: Yep.  In a monogamous relationship, you have the unspoken boundary of if you decide to date or fuck someone else, that's cheating.  But in an open relationship, you set the boundaries by talking about them.  So you talk to your partner and say: "It's okay if you see anyone else, but you just have to tell me about it." Or, "I'm okay with casual hookups, but I don't want you actually dating anyone else."  Then if either of you break the boundaries you set up in your relationship, that's cheating.
Shea: Oh, so cheating is more open ended sorta?
Me: Exactly.  Cheating is a betrayal of trust (sorry, I know I just wrote about this last post, but my sister doesn't read this blog, thank god) in regard to the boundaries of your relationship.  Poly people need to set up boundaries in every single relationship they have.  But, a polyamorous relationship is not necessarily an open relationship, which is where polyamory and open relationships differ. Six people who are dating each other...
Shea: That's a lot of people.
Me: It is a lot of people, I don't think I could handle that many relationships at once.  But six people who are dating each other and agree not to see anyone other than their five partners are in a closed relationship and trying to date or fuck- sorry, I'm not sure you're comfortable with that word, but it's just part of my vocabulary- someone else would be cheating.
Shea: No, I use that word sometimes.  When I'm really angry at you ever ask out a girl?
Me:  Yes, I would. 
Shea:'re bisexual?
Me: I don't really identify that way.
Shea:'re lesbian?
Me: No, otherwise I wouldn't be seeing Boyfriend.  I identify as queer.  Do you know what queer means?
Shea: Isn't that offensive like using the word "faggot"***?
Me: It used to be, but it's largely been successfully reclaimed.
Shea: Then what does it mean now?
Me: Queer is an umbrella term for non-heterosexual.
Shea: But what does that mean?
Me: When you say that you're queer, that generally comes with some sort of explanation. So: I'm queer but like semi-masculine presenting men and beyond that it's a case by case basis.
Shea:  What does that mean?
Me: Semi-masculine?
Shea: Yeah.
Me: So, you know that Boyfriend likes to tinker with thinks and fix broken things and that's generally considered a masculine trait?
Shea: Yeah.
Me: But he's not heavily into sports or aggressive, etc, etc.  That's what I mean when I say semi-masculine presenting.  And every guy I've ever been attracted to has had that type of gender presentation. But move beyond that and it various what I'm specifically attracted to, particularly in women.
Shea: Oh, did you tell Mom and Dad this?
Me: Not yet, I figured telling them I was poly was a good enough first step.
Shea: This kinda makes my head whirl.  It's so much to take in.
Me: If it helps, I felt like that when I was first learning too.
Shea: I'm glad we had this talk though.  It's cool.  Thanks for telling me.
*We promptly got out of the car and proceeded to Victoria Secret's for a free pair of underwear*

***I apologize for possibly triggering or offensive language, I'm just trying to be faithful to the conversation we had.

Why have I told my family you ask (or maybe you don't, but I've gotten this question enough that I would like to answer it).  I've told them for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, I thought that they could handle it without judging me too harshly, which I appreciated.  Secondly, if I do start dating/fucking/etc someone besides Boyfriend, I don't want to have to hide it from my family.  And thirdly, they're my family and I still like to try to keep them updated on things that are relevant to my life.

Note: Imaging Shea calling Boyfriend by my silly pseudonyms as opposed to his actual name is actually incredibly amusing for me.

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