Yesterday marked 5 years with B.
(Happy Anniversary my Love)
Soon it will be 12 years since I left home for university and a little later in the year 11 since I made my commitment to W.
It seems almost unimaginable how much my life has developed and changed in those 5 years and in the 7 before that.
A civil-partnership, a house, a doctorate. 2 strong, committed and positive relationships.
What did I do right?
Read some important thoughts on the impact of the changes to marriage laws in America :
I Still Can’t Marry My Partner.
Hint: Its not simple, its not THE answer and perhaps its not the most important issue…
This week has been mostly about juggling.
The ususal timetable that makes sure my boy and girl both get some special time with me, that I get some alone time, research is done and both houses get cleaned went out the window from the beginning. It turned out that the B had to work away from home for a couple of days and W has gone to a conference – luckily for me these happen to have fallen at opposite ends of the week so I don’t have to spend evenings alone. Generally this would be manageable but I also needed to visit my cousin and this weekend is all about the friends coming down to give the pub that made us family a send-off. Plus next week I am taking the boy away for his birthday and then its Easter and then its that conference I haven’t written a paper for. – is this the biggest challenge of having two lovers, making enough time for everybody?
So now I need to decide what has to be done before I head to work tonight (bearing in mind it will be my last chance to do anything useful til…sunday evening at best).
Tidy rooms for people to sleep in (think the one in my wife and I’s house is nearly there – but B’s is still a bit of a bombsite); do laundry to take away; finish conference slides; get the chapter I’m working on to where I’m ready to send it to my 2nd supervisor (which I am determined to do before I head off next week) and try to think of all the things I have forgotten. [this is before I try to work out what I need to do next week..like say write the paper, prepare a shopping list and pack 2 sets of bags..]
What do you do when you are faced with everything happening at once?
Procrastinate by writing a blog post?
There is in its own way a delightful irony that the arraignment/hearing/whatever word they use in french for my sister’s sexual assault case was on International Women’s Day.
For me there are two key thoughts to this; firstly that there is still a massive amount of violence against women and that sadly there are still a vast number of countries in the world where women are less than second class citizens and the effort we are putting into changing that is still minimal and secondly that my sister and I have been extremely privileged in that we have grown up in an environment that actively supports our right to speak up as well as theoretically.
Starting from the second point – though I haven’t asked my sister about what happened in detail and though I was not there for court time or am in any way responsible for the reactions of her colleagues, I feel it is fair to say that she is (& I am by extension) privileged by the fact that there has never been assumption that she is lying and that there was no suggestion that she should be less of a person because some arsehole raped her. My father has unquestioningly stood at her side to make sure that she was not (any more) broken or frightened by trying to bring her attacker to justice. But in all truth not only am I proud of my quasi-conservative father for his attitude but I am pleased with the response of the company she is working for. They have offered her time to come home and collect herself and the opportunity to move to a different venue to do her job as well as helping her deal with lawyers and police in a different language whilst still letting her get on with her job looking after kids. This is a world of difference to the attituds seen by various of my older friends and it represents a world where a woman is allowed to be affected by and deal with these things.
As we move forward in our attitude to respecting and supporting people who have been attacked and condemning those who attack we don’t just make our society more fair, we also allow those groups most afraid of admitting they have been hurt by others to come forward – men who have been systematically abused and/or raped, women who don’t ‘dress appropriately’, prostitutes and others . The world is slow but it gets better.
Sadly though this brings me back to the first point – that in some respects our privilege underscores the lack thereof enjoyed by other people. I don’t think any number of statistics can convey the experience of women living under oppressive regimes (though plenty have been offered – See also the UN page on women’s day) and I think that as we come closer to a better position in our lives we are in danger of assuming gender dialogue is no longer relevant.
I became involved (the friday after IWD) in an online debate where a number of men suggested that the focus on women perpetuated the notion of division rather than celebrated diversity. The key contention was that continuing to have separate days of focus on a particular group reinforced a negative perception of difference and allowed a culture of ‘feeling persecuted’ and encouraged positive discrimination rather than meritocracy. I was deeply saddened by these thoughts; partially because I genuinely feel that there is a danger of negatively stereotyping men in the quest towards equality and partially because I feel that the processes and rhetoric we are using in our gender discourses clearly obscure real issues.
So what should we be doing to help people reflect on the engrained social biases and unconscious stereotyping we indulge in (and I am just as guilty…more on that in a rant about beer I feel) without getting bogged down in petty trivia when there is still a war against poverty and violence to be fought?
What is the longest time you have been without sexual relations whilst in a loving relationship?
How did it feel?Did you feel rejected? relieved? How long would you wait til your level of desire synchronised with someone else’s? At what point is it reasonable to suggest you are incompatible sexually but still love each other?
To be honest I’m not looking for an answer for my life – I’m pretty happy with what I have, and when I’m not I feel in a position to change that. I don’t think there is a formula for happiness in this respect and every couple can work to find something that suits all parties.
But what brings it to mind is a friend’s dilemma. Though not an insatiable creature she craves the intimacy of sex but her husband currently does not. This hasn’t been a constant feature of their relationship [ie they have been at it like the proverbially bunnies at other points in their relationship], although she has previously had sexual and emotional relationships at the same time as her relationship with the man who is now her husband (with his knowledge and consent I hasten to add) she has deliberately reduced such contact since they married in order to focus on their relationship and consider working towards a family. At some point their sex life dwindled and she is left frustrated but unsure how to approach the issue.
So suggestions please – how do you ask for more sexual contact whilst respecting someone’s personal fluctuating sex drive and without pressurising someone who is unkeen or suffering from physical/emotional problems they are not yet ready to share? As a poly relationship how much is it fair/reasonable/uncomfortable/avoiding the issue to simply transfer sexual interest elsewhere?
What suggestions do people have to (re)kindle a fire or to really experience non-sexual intimacy in order to keep a relationship close?
Inspired by this blog article.
Its a thorny issue when you are depressed how much you let a professional tell you that there are changes you need to make in your lifestyle/circumstances.
Often when you get to a point to where you want help, one of the things you want help with is where stressors and problems lie and with working out what changes can be made – but there are some things that can’t be compromised.
For example my beloved wife’s smother is a major source of stress and heartache for both of us but my wife is determined to keep her in our lives. I respect that and any therapeutic relationship she has needs to respect that too. For me, I am not prepared to sacrifice my relationships for a therapist and thankfully I have never been asked.
Despite a perfectionist streak about a mile wide and a massive desire to please and to be loved, despite the fact I tend to blame myself for other people’s problems, even at the worst moments, even when we argued – I knew what needed to change was not having two relationships but how I approached those relationships. I was lucky because I had a counsellor who agreed.
But whilst at no point was I pressured to believe my ‘lifestyle’ was to blame I did have to spend a lot of time explaining myself.
I believe that when I started serious therapy and first talked about my ‘support network & family situation’ my counsellor thought that having 2 relationships was symptomatic of my low self-esteem, setting myself up to fail and probably more than a little odd, hell I worried about those things, but he never voiced any concerns only questions.
Some were questions about what my relationships were like for me, How was I treated? How did I cope with their feelings and jealousies? What benefits and what problems were there? All things that were about me evaluating my life and being deliberate about my choices, relevant regardless of the number of relationships I had just with a different twist.
But others were more personal or practical; questions that were born out of ignorance and confusion, not malicious or hurtful but difficult because they forced me to explain myself when I had other things on my mind.
Its not easy to manage any relationship when one (or more) party has severe depression and figuring out what you want out from your love life is a pre-requisite for good relationships for everyone so a therapist who can help you work towards a healthier, happier, honest and open life and relationships is brilliant. But that is easier to do when your therapist isn’t starting on the back foot information-wise
A key part of my management of 2 full-time relationships is special time with each partner. In theory this involves a number of different things, but in practice it revolves around the evenings we get to spend alone quietly at home.
The trick is not letting computers or cooking get between the time we actually spend paying attention to each other. For W & I that means putting aside our research in order to curl up on the sofa. Maybe its cliche, maybe its daft but our thing at this time of year is to watch University Challenge and Only Connect together each week. We call out the answers and look up the answers that we find odd; often we watch Dr Who. Tonight we had popcorn and chocolate and kept each other warm as the air turned autumnal.
B & I tend more toward House and Red Dwarf with pasta and red wine in our dressing gowns.
Either way its about relaxing and having a bitch and whine about our days and more than anything else about being a couple.
It stands to reason then for that time I must put aside my worries about my other partner and resist the temptation to contact them and let them know what I up to – for that evening they are secondary. On the other hand I must also recognise when my concerns about the partner I am not with are so great and valid enough to interfere with the evening and thus it would be better to put aside the designated partner in favour of the one I am worried about and carry time over, so that they both get real time.
Its a judgment I make week after week and sometimes I get it wrong; sometimes the time I need to spend doing other things (like work or conferences) interferes with the schedule and both are left feeling short-changed but despite the difficulties it poses I think its something all relationships need to make note of – its too easy to take your partner(s) for granted. Stop take a little time. Even time as trivial as your favourite TV shows together can make the difference to feeling appreciated.