Poly Means Many: Polywobbles
Content note: low self-esteem, anxiety, disordered thinking. None of these are the focus of this post, but are mentioned or referenced.
I’m going to take a bit of a weird direction here and write about something which I’m currently struggling with. I know how to get from here to being okay again, but there’s a bit of work to do between here and there.
As well as being poly, I’m actually a whole person! Part of being a whole person, for me, is that I suffer from mental health problems which, from time to time, mean that I need more hugs and talking than normal. One of these funks arrived about three weeks ago and has yet to let me up. I am hugely fortunate to live with three fabulous partners who have made me feel wonderfully supported while my brain takes a holiday from being able to do useful stuff.
So, I hear you ask, where’s the poly bit of the wobble?
It’s in the way I’m responding and the sort of support I’m asking for.
Our family started out as two couples, and in times of crisis, I turn primarily to the person I’ve been with the longest, my legal husband, Tom. He has brought me tea. In pint mugs. He has made me laugh by telling me stupid dad jokes and coming up with wonder/awful puns. He has listened as I’ve talked myself dry with tears falling on his shoulders. He makes sure I keep eating.
And there is a horrid little voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me that this means that I’m not really poly. That my relationships with my other two partners can’t be real. That I’m somehow letting down my partners and the poly community be leaning on my partners in the different ways that I am.
I suspect that much of this is just the natural fall out of my brain’s holiday, and that if I didn’t have more than one partner, it would be telling me I was currently being too much of a burden for any one person, or inventing any number of other things to get worked up about.
But that aside, it makes no sense for me to worry about this. We have chosen to be a family, not a separate pair of couples, but every relationship is unique. The fact is that one of my relationships has about twice as much history as my other two. And as for somehow letting down the community? Our family is ours, and the most important thing is that it works for us. After all, isn’t that why we’re poly in the first place? There’s no point rejecting one set of relationships norms just to adopt or create another. (If you want a long read on this, I can thoroughly recommend Andrea Zanin’s post on polynormativity at her Sex Geek blog.)
Being part of a non-standard relationship can give us wobbles about our roles and how we ‘ought’ to be relating to our partners. We have fewer role models than those in standard monogamous relationships, and it can be hard to truly understand that it is okay for our relationships to look like nothing we’ve seen before, as long as it works for everyone involved. It can also be daunting to have such a sea of possibilities. But the most important thing for us to remember is that the only audience that really matters is our partner(s), and the only metric by which success can truly be measured is whether it works, not how closely it conforms to any given model.
Now, if anyone has a sure fire way of getting that message into my brain past my current batch of brainweasels, I would love to hear from you!