Not an Odalisque

The Perils of Polyamory: The Gap Between Saying and Doing

with 2 comments

It took me a long time to learn is that people don’t base their image of your relationship on what you say, but on what you do. I spent a year with a boy at university, constantly repeating that I wasn’t monogamous with him, that it was casual, and that I wasn’t willing to continue our relationship after we graduated. I slept with him, cooked elaborate meals with him, spent every holiday at his parents’ house, and didn’t sleep with anyone else. He was pretty hurt at the end of third year. I thought I’d got better at communicating about the boundaries of my commitment, but a couple of years ago, a boyfriend left me alone in his house for a fortnight and contacted my girlfriend to say maybe she’d like to call in. I had great sex, and made the discovery that he thought my girlfriend and I had been ‘just friends’ for the last nine months. Oh, dear.

So when people talk about poly and communication, I think: that’s fine, talk all you like, but as Alice Walker pointed out, people don’t remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel. If you’re making your partner feel safe, loved, special and exclusive, your partner will be surprised when you jump into bed with Deidre, no matter how many times you warned him or her that you would.

Which brings me to Friday night. On Friday, I was working, then celebrating the shiny £20 note I was rewarded with, by driving to the supermarket. I made dinner, watched a television programme, and asked twitter how to cure the wounds on my feet. They were kind of gross and painful. I decided against spending money on medical supplies, the Lover was sure to have some, and he’d be home soon.

Save your relationship: buy dettol

I sent him a text message, asking if he was having a good time. I picked up a book about eighteenth century lesbian gender and read about hermaphrodites. I sent him an email, remembering that his phone was low on battery. I asked twitter about cures for gross, weeping feet, established that I possessed none of them and then moved on to female husbands. At 11pm, I thought he was probably on his way home, they wouldn’t keep drinking after six hours, so I called him. His phone was off. They must be having a good night out, I’d call him again at midnight when he was sure to be on the bus. He phone was still off. Someone on Twitter told me that crushed up asprin might help, so I ransacked the drugs drawer and established I didn’t have any. I did an hour’s website writing. Unable to get the Lover on the mobile, I thought about calling his landline, but decided that I didn’t want to risk waking his wife. I took some painkillers and got into bed, read about cross-dressing pirates. I called the Lover once more, at 2am, before I went to sleep.

This could be read as a story about a girl who is so clingy that she can’t even let her partner go on a date without calling him four times and sending him two text-based communications. A story about a strange, proto-stalker, who ought to get a grip, or possibly arrange her own dates so that the people in her life have room to breathe (and stock her medicine cupboard). I think, though, that it’s a story about a girl with a caring partner who has been so attentive for so long that it’s become the norm. Regular presence, the constant opportunity for communication, and a supply of Dettol and bandages are all expected, and anything else is going to be strange and difficult to negotiate. Which isn’t to say that it’s the way I think it should be, just the way it is, without either of us deciding it. He was my first phone call when I broke my collar bone, and didn’t know what to do.

The next morning, as I was drinking my coffee and thinking about limping to the chemist, the Lover called.

“Hello, you dirty stop out!” I said.

“It was quite dirty!” He made a chuckly, chortly sort of noise. It was, well, one way of introducing the fact of a new partner to a current one. Is there, though, a right way to introduce change to the everyday practice of a relationship? Perhaps is it as unyielding as Kundera implies when he says,

“Oh lovers! be careful in those dangerous first days! once you’ve brought breakfast in bed you’ll have to bring it forever, unless you want to be accused of lovelessness and betrayal.”


Written by Not an Odalisque

July 2, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. This sums up one of my fears of my girlfriend finding someone else. It’s very easy to become very used to the way things are and I know I am scared of change. The thing is, not all change is bad. Without it, we stagnant. You’ve said before that you’ve found yourself relying on the lover too much; maybe this is just a nudge to remind you that it’s good to have other people to rely on too, including yourself.

    In this situation, normally I would have jumped in to help but, I too, was playing the dirty stop out game, although it was more of the sticky bar floor variety.

    Alyss Abyss

    July 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm

  2. Ah, but isnt life richer with the wealth of emotions at our disposal. Ive been reading your blog very much this afternoon after finding it by accident while looking for a female perspective to Ceroc’s gender roles. A great read. Hope to dance with you one day.


    July 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm

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