Monday, June 11, 2012

Sharing Special Experiences with a Lover

I spent three days last week with Scott.  We met in a city half way between where we each live because there was a concert I wanted to go to.  Well, that’s not quite the whole story. 

Scott and I had planned to meet at our regular half-way “meet-up” place when I got word from a family member that a certain famous rock star, who just happens to be one of my favorites at the moment, was doing a couple of shows in Nashville.  The family member is in the famous rock star’s band and said he could snag me a couple of tickets to one of the shows. 

I had never seen this musician live and I’m a big fan, so there was no way I was going to pass up the chance to go to the concert and possibly meet him.  I had also never spent time in Nashville and have always wanted to, so I thought about rearranging my plans with Scott.

Scott had taken four days off of work, which is not easy for him to do, and the shows fell on two of the nights he and I planned to spend together.  I asked Marc if it would be okay if Scott and I met in Nashville instead of our regular meeting place and went to the shows together. 

Marc made it very clear to me that he would like to go instead of Scott.  I explained to him that Scott had taken the time off already and it was too late for he and I to change our plans.  These days were set-aside for Scott and me, and I really didn’t want to forego the opportunity to see the concert.  I said that it really wasn’t an option for me to cancel with Scott and go to Nashville with Marc.  If Marc wasn’t comfortable with Scott and I meeting in Nashville, I’d have to miss the concerts and meet Scott in our regular place. 

After a long discussion, Marc very generously said it would be okay if I met Scott in Nashville and went to the rock shows with him.

While there, Scott and I spent a bit of time with a couple members of my family.  We had hung out with one of my nieces back in December, so meeting someone in my family isn’t necessarily new.  Marc said, however, that it was particularly difficult this time because, as a musician, Marc feels closer to these members of my family than to most others. 

Scott and I went to the shows both nights and I met the rock star on the second night. 

Over the couple of days I spent with Scott, Marc texted several times saying that he was having a really hard time with me and Scott being together, in a new city, and going to the rock shows. 

This time was especially difficult for Marc, so we thought it might be useful to talk about 1) why I (Mimi) chose to do it despite Marc’s desire to go instead of Scott, 2) what was particularly hard for Marc, and 3) for both of us, what did you do to deal with the whole situation? 

Mimi:
Scott and I had planned on getting together during the dates of the concert long before I knew about the concert.  We have a long distance relationship so seeing each other on a regular basis requires planning ahead.  He had already arranged his work schedule so he’d be free those days, and a week before we were supposed to get together, I received the invitation to come up to Nashville for the shows. 

As I said above, the rock star is one of my favorites at the moment, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to go to the concerts and possibly meet him.  Since I started listening to his music, I always wanted to tell him that I love the way he queers musical genres.  I really didn’t want to pass up the chance to actually do so.

I approached Marc to see how he would feel if Scott and I met in Nashville instead of our usual meeting place. Marc told me that it would be really difficult for him when Scott and I were in Nashville because he wanted to go and going to rock shows is something Marc and I do together and he would feel replaced by Scott. 

While I totally understand how Marc felt and I appreciated his willingness to let me know, I decided to meet Scott in Nashville rather than go with Marc.

There are several reasons I made this decision—some of them are personal and specific to me and/or my relationships with Marc and Scott, and some of them are about doing polyamory.  As you can imagine, there is a lot of overlap between the personal and the poly stuff, but before I dive in to the reasons, let me address Scott meeting people in my family.

I know that one of the most difficult things for Marc was that Scott met and spent time with three members of family—family members who Marc is particularly fond of and with whom he has a lot in common.  Certainly it was partially circumstance. While one family member had expressed some excitement in finally meeting Scott, it was mostly just timing rather than a concerted effort to make it happen.  I did enjoy having Scott meet them.  I love my family; I love Scott.  I have always enjoyed introducing the people I love (whether or not I was having sex with them) to my family.  In no way did Scott “replace” Marc while spending time with them.  In fact, at dinner we talked about Marc and everyone agreed that we missed having him there with us. 

Ok, so the reasons for my decision to meet Scott and not go with Marc…

First, I have responsibilities to Scott.  He had arranged his schedule (not an easy thing for him to do) for the time off and away, and I couldn’t just blow him off.  Nor did I want to.  We only get to see each other once per month at the most, and I missed him and was looking forward to spending time with him.  Marc and I had already agreed that the dates were set-aside for Scott time, and so I followed through on previously made plans.

I would have tried to reschedule with Scott (and hope that he would understand) if the event in Nashville was something very specific to my and Marc’s bond.  For instance, there is one musician that is special in my relationship with Marc, and if he were playing Nashville, I would never, ever have gone with Scott instead of Marc.  If there was a famous mountaineer or rock climber, or if Lance Armstrong or, better yet, George Hincapie had agreed to a date with us, I would have gone with Marc and tried to make it up to Scott. 

As it turns out, Marc is not a fan of this rock star and doesn’t really know his music.  Marc and I have never really listened to his music together, let alone bonded on it.  In fact, this musician played at a festival in New Orleans recently, and Marc told me it wasn’t worth the money or effort to go with me because he’s just not really into it. 

Scott wasn’t a fan either, but since Scott and I already had plans, it made sense that Scott would go rather than Marc.  While I think Scott enjoyed the show and, as a result, has become somewhat of a fan, he and I didn’t really “bond” over the musician in the same way Marc and I have with the musician mentioned above. Marc and I bonded with “our” musician because he was, in many ways, our first “third”.  A completely isolated, unusual, and incredibly special situation between me and Marc that I will never share with anyone else. (Though I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a solo romp with the Nashville musician. Ha!)

So already set plans with Scott, Marc isn’t a fan, and not insignificantly, I’ve been going to rock shows and digging rock musicians since I was an adolescent.   Rock shows and rock musicians are really my thing.  Solo (except for bonding with Marc over Mr. Third mentioned above).  Always has been and always will be that way. That rocker in me is a loner—a rebel, Dotty. 

Scott and I will always have special memories around this particular musician and our time in Nashville, but before, during, and after the concerts, my love of the music was and still is my own.

I understand that it was difficult for Marc to see me share that experience with Scott.  I would feel the same way.  But difficult is not necessarily bad, and it’s part of the terrain.  In polyamory, you have to let go of the idea that you can and will only have new and interesting experiences with your primary partner.  As I said to Marc, I have friends with whom I share interests, experiences, and bonds that I don’t share with Marc, and I’m “in love” with those friends because of the special things they add to my life.  Some of them I’ve been sexual with; others I have not.

Scott and I have a relationship.  We have special bonds between the two of us, special experiences, and intimate ways of being with each other.  Just as is the case with my other friends, this doesn’t take anything at all away from my and Marc’s special experiences, bonds, and intimacy.  From where I sit, Scott adds something to my life; he doesn’t replace something I have with Marc.  I do realize that being sexually involved with Scott makes it more difficult for Marc, but I’m going to simply ask the question, why?  Why does sex make my bond with Scott different from my bonds with other people I love? 

I think this might be our old, uninvited friends mono-normativity and compulsory monogamy slipping in the door to our little party.  They’re sneaking around whispering in Marc’s ear, “If being sexually involved means exclusive pair-bonding, then being sexually involved with Scott means Mimi will pair bond with him.  That special experience she shared with Scott?  Well, you, my friend, will be out in the cold.  You are being replaced!”

Enter Polyamory, our invited guest.  Poly pulls Marc out of the clutches of mono-normativity and compulsory monogamy and says, “Mimi’s bonds with Scott, sexual and otherwise, don’t force her to choose between you and Scott (or, for that matter, the other people she has sex with).  Mimi is with you because of who you are and the relationship she has with you.  No one could ever replace you.  Now, are you going to throw mono-normativity and compulsory monogamy out, or should I?”

In my perfect world, there would have been three tickets and Marc and I would have met Scott in Nashville and the three of us would have had a special experience together.  It’s not a perfect world, but trust me on this, I am not complaining.

 As it was, I did get to have Scott time, meet the rock star, and tell him that I love how he queers music.  I am so appreciative for all of it, but mostly I am so grateful that Marc is willing to take on things that are sometimes difficult and challenging.  But hey, he’s not one to run away from challenges—he’s a rock-climbing mountaineer who has completed an Ironman triathlon. 



Marc:

This was a tough one for me.  I did feel replaced.  I understand that the process of Mimi and I spending time at a big rock show isn’t exclusively “ours” and that she has done this for many years before we met.  That said, this was the first time that a.  she went to a big concert like this without me SINCE WE MET, and b.  the first time she’s spent significant time with Scott and her family members whom I feel like I really bond with.  All of that, combined with the fact that she would be exploring a new city with Scott rather than me, (exploring cities and having new experiences while travelling is something that Mimi and I do often and is part of our most special memories) made it really difficult for me.  Lastly, the fact that I am not dating anyone currently, and haven’t been for over two months, makes her relationship with Scott a bit tougher for me to swallow, as I do not feel as though I’m participating in the open relationship, and certainly not experiencing the same type of loving, sexual, “pair bonding” relationship with a lover as Mimi is.


I realize cognitively that Mimi’s spending time with others doing things that are similar or exactly the same as things that we do does not mean she is replacing me…she’s just adding on to her experiences with me by doing some of these things with her lover(s).  Same goes with sex, but I think that because I have more experience in Mimi being sexual with lovers besides me, I’m better equipped to deal with the emotions that arise when this occurs.  I was NOT prepared for the emotions regarding the travel (exploring a new city),  the rock concert, or her spending time with her family and a lover. 

Each step we take together in this open relationship is a new opportunity for growth, and growth is sometimes painful or, at the very least, difficult.  There is also certainly an element of equity that makes things tough for me.  The fact that I’m not dating anyone, as mentioned above, makes things tough, but also, there seems to be a double standard in some of our interactions with lovers.  By this, I mean that while Mimi would like me to understand what she mentioned above about mono-normativity being the culprit here, causing me to feel replaced, there are occasionally things that I do with a lover or even a friend that somewhat resemble things that Mimi and I do, that Mimi has difficulties accepting as well.  This leads me to the conclusion that despite us both understanding that “replacement” has not occurred, it’s HARD to just accept that. 

Case in point:  I was dating a woman (who was also in a relationship with a primary partner elsewhere) for a few months.  In early April, she told me that she was planning on moving to be with her primary partner in another city, and that we could no longer see each other.  I hadn’t seen this woman for about 6 weeks, and we had lunch not long ago to say good bye.  Our relationship is now purely platonic, and after lunch, we headed to the river to sit and chat a bit more.  We walked through the French Quarter to get to the river and then again to return to the cars.  Mimi had a lot of difficulty with the fact that we walked through the French Quarter, because Mimi and I have a specific relationship to the Quarter…on some Sundays, we ride our bikes to the Quarter and walk around.  This issue came up several times over the last week and Mimi was upset that this occurred.

 So, for me to get on board with the idea that it’s just mono-normativity that’s rearing it’s ugly head and causing me to feel replaced, and that I should necessarily recognize that and not have an emotional reaction, I would need for Mimi to also get on board with that in situations where she feels replaced, or when I’m doing something with a lover (or platonic friend who WAS a lover in this case) that reminds her of something that she and I do together.  It’s not easy.  Despite the rationality of Mimi’s argument, we have to take into account emotions, issues from the past, etc., and be sensitive to the whole package. 
As I mentioned, this whole experience has forced me to grow a little, and has given me enough experience so that when this type of thing happens again with Mimi and her lover, I will be better prepared to deal with it.  Open relationship push you into situations you wouldn’t necessarily volunteer to be in, but as long as personal growth is the outcome, I’m willing to go there.