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Revelation

While getting brunch with the Programmer this morning, I talked with him quite a bit about my spending the summer in Seattle. The conversation inevitably turned to the topic of poly management. The Programmer mentioned something that has made me realize what might be holding me back from fully accepting poly in my own life.

He told me that he views his poly group as a family, and that he sees his partners’ partners as akin to his own partners. In this framework, it’s pretty obvious to each member that it’s not a zero-sum game, and everyone wants everyone else to succeed.

Everyone wants everyone else to succeed in a family? The concept was difficult for me to grasp at first. How is that intrinsic to being a member of a family?

Enter in my own familial experience.

Not only did I spend most of my childhood either in school or under minimal supervision at home – and thus I believe never bonding very strongly with my immediate family members – I’ve never really been close to anyone in my family for most of my life. I had no interest in participating in the ‘family time’ my mother continually attempted to implement, and I was often happier going off on my own, whether it was hiking in the woods or working on school projects.

So, then. What does family actually mean to me? I hear the word, and its meaning (aided by indoctrination through popular media) and my personal association are at complete odds. I don’t think of community, closeness, or support network. I think of obligation, filial piety, and tradition.

Usually, it feels like a necessary evil.

I think of growing up being constantly compared, academically and physically, against my cousins and against my parents’ own accomplishments. How can I think of family as anything other than a zero-sum game against that kind of background? I think of my mother’s recent trip to Taiwan for a family reunion, and all of the married nieces and nephews with their children that will remind her so starkly of my lack of pursuit of a family of my own.

Perhaps, if I had a better idea of how to find or build the kind of community I want and create new, positive associations to this word, family, I’d be better equipped to fully accept polyamory.

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Categories: life, polyamory, writing
  1. Lorelei
    June 8, 2012 at 11:30 am

    I would note that there are as many ways to do polyamory as there are people doing it. The “family” model doesn’t resonate with everyone (nor does the word family), and it’s not the be-all, end-all of poly. I do think building community is important, and if your family-of-origin experience is inhibiting your ability to do so, then it’s worth addressing – but that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the way you choose to model your poly life.

    • June 18, 2012 at 1:09 pm

      That’s a good point, and one I neglected to make. I do understand that everyone does poly a little differently. I wanted to get this post/thought down quickly, and so it’s not fully fleshed out, but your last sentence is exactly what I’m getting at – trying to build community despite my personal history.

      And I do believe, for myself personally, that figuring out how I define family – chosen family, in this case – will help me also in structuring my poly life.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. It’s good to be reminded that everyone does things differently and that there is no one set poly structure – though sometimes I wish there were better guidelines/infrastructure for this sort of thing.

  2. Dov
    July 29, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    One thing I’ve noticed about successful poly is that as much as the systems may be different or named differently certain elements are similar. The larger differences I’ve noted seem to come within how close knit the poly structure is e.g.. is it a loose association or a more defined poly structure. Is there a dense interaction between members of the group or is it more casual.

    Its a matter of your comfort level thats what will define what you want and where you want to fit in.
    Your Bio family gives you a very detailed map of the elements you dislike and shie away from using that look at the structures you see within the various ways you see poly that interest you and also counterpoint how similar elements may be done in a way that aren’t judgmental and are instead supportive.

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