A partridge in a bergamot tree

Carrie and I just celebrated our first Christmas and birthday together, my natal date being December 25th, 1978. New England is beautiful, and I was more than charmed to be with my love and her family. For the first time, I get along with a significant other and her relatives. Anyway, it’s the holidays and I’m in love and everything is wonderful.

It’s also very normal. For certain values.

I’m sometimes struck, when discussing some aspect of existing relationships with Carrie or with other non-monogamous friends, by just how functional it all is. It shouldn’t be as remarkable to me as it is, as I’ve been exposed to functional non-monogamy in the past, but most of my direct experience of non-monogamous individuals has been their trying to convince me or my monogamous S.O. that monogamy is “unnatural” and that we should “explore other options”, etc., etc. Good poly folks will just talk about their relationship styles, but the bad ones recruit like Ponzi.

Thus, my heuristic response to non-monogamy is based more on the vocal, visible bad apples than on the quietly stable friends I’ve had who just did their thing without involving the world. I know better than to be surprised, but still sometimes am.

And so, driving home in the warm post-holiday glow this morning, I was struck by how remarkably unremarkable it was, in a lot of ways. I went to my lady-love’s parents’ house for Christmas, was warmly greeted, had a great time, enjoyed some great food, and then traveled back home. It was wonderful, and fairly conventional.

Other times, I’ve been bemused to hear stories of Carrie’s other lovers that involve the simple mundanity of life. I know better, I really do, but I sometimes need to be reminded that “polyamorous” can be a trait of someone without being the defining trait of that person. It doesn’t help that, by and large, I know these people only as “Carrie’s other boyfriends” or “intimate friends” or what-have-you; at most I’ve met any of these people once, in a context that didn’t allow a chance to get to know each other. I’m sure as people become more real to me, this sort of thing will cease to surprise.

At the moment, I’m just happy and warm in the knowledge that I’m loved. When I accepted monogamous relationships, all that I ever wanted out of them was a sense that I was Important for someone, not that I was the only one for them. I assumed that being Important would naturally follow from being the only one, and I discovered that that’s not the case. By contrast, I never lack a sense of Importance in this relationship, which tells me what I’m looking for is a quality of being in the right relationship rather than of being in the right kind of relationship.

I mean, don’t get me wrong; previously mentioned difficulties still plague me, but I’m happy. I’m not one to worry about jinxing things, but others are, so I’ll refrain from telling you what I think the future holds. This is good, though, and I think it will be good for quite some time. I have anxieties, but no fears.

Merry Boxing Day, everyone, and have a happy New Year. I’ll see you in aught-nine.

So, wait…

I hadn’t wanted to mention Carrie’s moratorium mentioned in the previous post because it was hers to discuss. I try to minimize any private information of hers that I mention here; Carrie’s a much less, er, open person than I am in most ways. I’m at my most comfortable when I’m talking about myself.

However, if you read about Carrie’s hiatus and wondered why I wasn’t more copacetic than I am, you wouldn’t be alone. I know she has, and to some extent, I’ve wondered that myself.

Part of the answer lies in that old chestnut that “poly isn’t [all] about the sex“. I’m well aware of that, on a fairly bone-deep level, and so while I understand the lifestyle better than most previously-monogamous folks, the lack of sex is not much of a comfort. Carrie still has these relationships with a romantic component, even if the foolin’ around is on hold, and outside of this primary relationship I just don’t.

And that’s another bit of it. I feel somewhat the way that I felt when I was monogamous–i.e., boxed in and optionless. My difficulties are less about what Carrie does and more about what I don’t. I feel like this is ground that I’ve covered before, but I haven’t mentioned that I live with obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is a complicating factor. Mine often manifests as a desire for symmetry, and anxiety if things are out of balance; this relationship feels rather wildly out of balance.

Also, her moratorium is acknowledgedly temporary. When Carrie was just continuing on with the physically intimate portions of other relationships, that was fine (for certain values of ‘fine’). It was no less difficult, but no more so. But now, we’re in this weird limbo where she’s not only not interested in other people, but officially so; however, it’s known that that will end. So, I feel some level of obligation to reciprocate by not seeing anyone else at the moment (which may be another manifestation of the OCD) while at the same time knowing that Carrie’s outside interests will reignite. Not only do I not know when, nor will I necessarily know until quite some time after, but also when it happens it will be, to an extent, because she’s less into me than she was.

This is not to say that it’s not flattering, but it’s also not comforting. It makes me feel good without making me feel better.

As an aside, occasionally when I talk to someone about these difficulties, they seem to think that they would be solved by being in a monogamous relationship. That’s not just wrong, but antipodal from right. If Carrie and I were to decide to be monogamous, I could never address these feelings. I would be stuck this way forever, with the added obligation of being everything to someone. I’ve tried that, and discovering that I can’t do it nearly tore me apart. I’m not in this kind of relationship because it was a requirement of dating Carrie; it’s equally a requirement of dating me.

That last bit hasn’t precisely served me very well, though. It’s not as if no one has expressed interest in me since Carrie and I got together; if anything, more people have. But everyone that I’ve reciprocated interest in has evaporated as soon as they found out about my pre-existing and very serious relationship. Prior, I was running into a lot of people who weren’t interested in nonmonogamy, but some were at least willing to entertain the idea when it was less concrete. A friend recently suggested that I just not tell people about the situation until/unless they express an interest in becoming monogamous, but that seems, to me, like lying by omission. Perhaps I’m just used to a certain style of dating, with which I was always uncomfortable, in which it’s assumed that everyone is looking for someone they can spend the rest of their life with unless otherwise stated. Maybe that assumption isn’t in play outside of Indiana, but I’m still leery of eliding the question of “what are you looking for?”.

And, you know, I don’t have a whole lot of outside interest right now. It’s not that I don’t get the occasional twitch of “ooh, I’d like to tap that”, but no one much is catching my interest lately, because it’s all rather absorbed in Carrie. At the same time, I feel internal pressure to see someone outside, if only to right the balance.

I’m pulled in two ways at once right now, but, in a sense luckily, I don’t have any outside options, so that particular choice is made for me.