The Problem With The Lack of Road Signs

I’ve been MIA. I haven’t been writing about how I’m feeling, because honestly, I don’t even know that myself. It changes from day to day, and from moment to moment.

I love my new job. So of course, I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. For them to tell me its not the right fit, or that the economy is bad, or to just mysteriously stop giving me shifts without telling me why. I’m having bad dreams about screwing up in horrible ways.

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In reality, I have been complimented on how well I am doing. I know that this job is more perfect for me than any I’ve ever had. It’s fun. It plays to my strengths. My co-workers seem to like me. I’m kicking butt, while being terrified of falling on my face.

Things with Papa Bear are similarly confusing. I keep thinking about the fact that this relationship cannot “go anywhere”. This is only a problem in mono-mind, and in a culture where everything has to be taken to the next level. It is only a problem if I look at my life as a check list: Graduate, get a job, get married, have babies, retire, travel (although I personally would have liked to put travel at the beginning of the list).

I wonder if I am really a true poly. Would I have ever chosen this lifestyle if I was blissfully happy in a monogamous relationship? Some poly people say that this is just who they are–they view it as a relationship orientation. I’ve talked to women who say they’ve known they were poly since they were kids and their barbies lived in a communal group marriage.

Me? I’m poly out of circumstance. I need romance and I need sex, but I also need to keep my family together. Open marriage seemed the best option. Of course, one theory is that poly works because there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. So, instead of expecting one person to meet all your needs–and putting enormous pressure and unrealistic expectations on that relationship–it makes sense to spread it out a little. So maybe I would have ended up here regardless. I know I’ve never been particularly cut out for monogamy. I’ve always juggled feelings and attractions to multiple people.

Then there’s my inherently communal nature. I love time to myself–I need to be able to isolate myself with a good book, or sit and sketch in a coffeehouse. I need to take walks by myself and just be alone with my thoughts. But at the heart, I’m relational. I’ve been at my happiest living in community. I loved college dorms. We threw little dinner parties. We stayed out til 6 AM. We lay around on the property, sunning ourselves and studying. We took classes together, spent holidays together, and lived and worked together.
I loved working at camp, too. I loved living where I worked, and knowing that my co-workers were also my neighbours. I loved our group dinners and weekend barbecues and break days where we took little trips. I love being part of a community, and that too, attracted me to polyamory.

So what’s my problem? Mainly, its that I hate feeling left out. I may have residual issues from being the weird ADD kid in school, but whatever the cause, I am becoming more and more aware of feeling on the outside of Papa Bear’s life. Things with The Wifey haven’t really got better since Christmas. We had a girls day the other day, and while it was pleasant, I still don’t really feel like I belong.

I don’t like rules and restrictions. I don’t like the fact that she and Papa Bear have dedicated times that are “theirs”–although she actually refers to those times as “hers.” It bothers me that I am not welcome on Sunday morning or afternoon, but it is still fine for her to invite friends over for brunch. Friends who, particularly, have asked to meet me, yet I wasn’t invited. It bothers me that she gets upset if Papa Bear doesn’t take her to breakfast and then to work on Saturday morning–even if what he’s doing instead is working–so that getting any weekend sleepover time at all is complicated.

Practically speaking, it doesn’t make much difference. I need to be with my kids on the weekends anyway, so I prefer not to sleep over too often. But when I do, I am left alone in bed while Papa Bear takes her to a long breakfast and then to work. And then I force him to take me to breakfast as well, because why should I be the only one who doesn’t get morning time? It’s bad enough that we don’t get morning cuddles, or morning sex. It’s bad enough that he doesn’t get to sleep in with me, and I have to wake up alone. I am not getting screwed out of bacon and pancakes, too.

I am frustrated with the rules. It irritates me to no end that Papa Bear MUST turn off his cell phone and “go dark”, while on a date with The Wifey. But when he’s with me, it is fine for him to answer calls and texts.

Papa Bear’s daughter told me the other day that she is glad I moved to the city, for the sake of her family. She is happy that I am part of it. She and I have definitely bonded and I absolutely adore her, but I can’t help feeling like an outsider.

It’s not so much that I want all of his time, or unrestricted access to his home. It’s just the principle of it. The idea that these parameters were set up not to keep their relationship strong, but to keep me out. It just feels very…hierarchical. He and I have no such rules or restrictions surrounding our relationship. The Wifey called all of the “prime” times, so I get what is left over: Sunday evening, with the knowledge that we have to wake up early for work. Friday night, when we are exhausted from the week, and where we will not get to just laze around together the next day.

To be fair, these rules are not hard and fast. It’s not like I never get a Saturday night sleepover–I did on Valentines Day, for instance, and I will on my birthday.

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Then I think I am just being a whiner. You can’t tell people how to love you. I have learned that the hard way, over and over. My parents are perpetually late–I spent an inordinate amount of my childhood waiting outside the school after the teachers and custodial staff had all gone home, and this went on through the adult years, when they were two hours late fetching me from the airport on my first visit home from college. This used to drive me crazy and break my heart, but its who they are–they will not be on time. Ever. I have accepted that no amount of crying or histrionics is going to change that. You can’t tell people how to love you.

It happened with my in-laws, and caused a huge rift that resulted in none of us talking to each other for two years. I wanted them to come directly to me with issues they had with me, and also keep their noses out of our decision-making, and they wanted to only deal with their son, talk about me behind my back, and give unsolicited advice which they then forced us to follow. Now I just smile and nod. I let them deal with my husband and don’t worry that I am on the outside. I let them buy the kids’ bunk-beds when I would really prefer not to have one of them so high up before the recommended age, because at least they care enough to make sure our kids have beds. They have done a lot for us, even if they always think they know best. Even if they are controlling. You can’t tell people how to love you.

The Wifey loves me, in her own way. She is also threatened by how different I am from her, and how much more like Papa Bear I am. The rules are not about me–they are about her, and her need to retain control in her own life, and to guard something precious. Papa Bear is doing the best he can. He thinks the rules are stupid (his words), but he is willing to accommodate her for now because this is all so new. And in lots of ways, she has been very accommodating and encouraging of our relationship. She helped Papa Bear plan our Valentines Day. She suggests gifts she thinks I’d like. She loans me books and gives me good advice, and she loves the fact that Papa Bear and I are decorating the guest room (our room) exactly as we want to, with zero input from her.

It’s just this situation. Knowing I will likely never be a legitimate (ie, socially acceptable) partner. Knowing the closest we will ever get to living together is probably having our own tiny cabin or trailer to escape to on weekends. Knowing we will never spend more time together than we do apart. It’s all okay, and sometimes I feel great about it, but there is always the idea that what I have is never enough–and this extends to every area of my life.

It’s not enough to have a clean, comfortable, cozy place to live, you have to buy a house.

It’s not enough to have a wonderful job that you love, you have to keep moving up the ladder.

It’s not enough to learn about other countries, you have to go there.

It’s not enough to be in love, you have to get married.

I can’t help but picture a backyard hand fasting ceremony. Hand-made hand fasting chords, a white lace dress, fiddle music, and a bon fire. But I always get held up when I think about who will attend. Papa Bear’s best friend is unlikely to fly across the country to witness a ceremony that is merely symbolic. Can my kids come? How will I explain it to them? Maybe I should wait until they are 18 and old enough to decide if they want to participate. Our families sure as heck won’t come, since they would never support it, and we likely won’t even tell them. What kind of relationship has to remain largely private? And then there’s Papa Bear’s wife. Who has been trying so hard and growing so much, but who also cried her heart out the other night when Papa Bear told her we were thinking of visiting a remote island together next summer. The idea of a commitment ceremony would surely not be well received any time soon.

Then there are the logistics. We have our ceremony, go away for a weekend together, and then come home to our separate residences? We go on leading largely separate lives? How will that work?

Papa Bear says it is about the fact that we love each other, and believe that love to be eternal. That we are committed to seeing this thing through, regardless of the logistics. That we don’t have to live together to be legitimate. And he’s right. I just need my heart to catch up with my head. It is hard to deprogram from the script I’ve spent my entire life thinking I’d follow.

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The problem with the road less traveled, is the lack of road signs. It’s exhilarating forging your own path, but its also exhausting.


3 Comments on “The Problem With The Lack of Road Signs”

  1. plantpage says:

    Hang in there kiddo.

  2. Mrs Fever says:

    I think, with certain people, we seek “Unit” and when there are already traditional commitments to other partners in place (partners who are inclined to safely guard their ‘place’ within their own, previously-established unit entity), “Unit” is a struggle to define, and an uphill climb to achieve.


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