Sunday, January 23, 2011

Family as a Construct

Family. Ask a hundred people, and a significant portion will tell you that it's the most important thing in their life. The top priority that they work to support and maintain. I'm firmly in the "Family is Important" camp, although most of my family doesn't share much genetic material with me.

Having gone through a great many changes in the past couple of years, my "family" has also shifted over this time. PG (aka META whetstone) and I are no longer married romantic partners, and are investigating what it means to continue to be important in each other's lives, to be family on some level. S and I keep moving in the direction of growth and integration on a deeper level, and that dynamic is one of the things that feeds me. D and I are finding more ground to share, and staying firmly pointed in the direction of long-term connection and adding value to each other's lives.

Our daughter is a huge focus at the moment. She is struggling with the changes in her family landscape, and we are all trying to help her sort through things. I feel empowered and supported by having so many loving and caring people that are ready and willing to plug in to help her find her way, even as I strive to bring better patience, skills and understanding to the table. My now-ex mother-in-law is someone that's been a parent to me since I was 18, and however the paperwork looks, she and I still have a strong family bond that will continue forward.

The bio family is sort of a non-factor most of the time. They live far away, and are very different people, so the main function they have in my life is to be extended family as possible with our daughter. They moved away when I was about 20 years old, so haven't really been important in my adult life.

Then there's the poly community! These people are like my cousins, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They provide a broader context for my family construct. Filling in the gaps and creating space that I wouldn't otherwise have access to in my life.

One of the strengths of poly is the opportunity to reinvent the concept of family in a broader context. Don't limit yourself to the genetic pool you crawled from! Family is where you find it, build it, create it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Privilege: A right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.

This word is bandied about pretty regularly in poly circles. Endlessly debated, as though it is a bad thing in all circumstances. I have reached saturation with it. Being so tired of it, here are some of my thoughts regarding this oh-so-loaded word! ;)

Gender, spirituality, level of experience, ethnicity, body size, height, sexuality, marital status, age, introversion/extroversion, disabled, mentally diagnosed in some way, sex positive/negative, employed/unemployed/self-employed, dominant/submissive, kinky/vanilla, poly/mono. The list of things that we are supposedly privileged by is extensive, and seems to grow directly in proportion to how much someone is outside societal norms.

There are a great many of these things that are unchangeable, not chosen. That is the arena in which it seems very reasonable to make some noise about changing and have some righteous indignation about. The ones that are chosen behaviors in some ways? Do your thing, be unapologetic about it, educate others, and be prepared for some resistance.

I'm a person that chooses to be poly. Yes, on many levels I consider that to be more hard-wired than not, but I lived mono for many years quite successfully, and it was a conscious decision on my part to divert from that societally privileged state and be authentically who I am. Yes, I live in the Pacific Northwest, where poly isn't so odd. While an eyebrow may be cocked, and there are potential repercussions, I don't live in fear of being exposed. Some will see that as coming from a position of privilege. I tend to see it more as setting up my life so that it works pretty well, despite opting to do and be many things that are quite a bit outside the box.

No, it wasn't easy. Yes, I've paid significant prices for my choices. People that choose to live inside the boxes have prices they pay for their privilege as well, ones that I am unwilling to pay. The folks that spend inordinate amounts of time whinging about how they, or others that they see, are oppressed by the establishment wouldn't choose to be a part of it if they had a graven invitation.

Yes, it is important for each of us to push for changes that are personally valuable and desired. Just remember that societal norms are a moving target, and acknowledge the progress we've already made, rather than complaining that it isn't yet perfect. The 'edge' of today is the 'old hat' of tomorrow. Transformation on a broader level comes from people doing things that aren't easily accepted, and making them a working example to those who lack their perspective and experiences. Remedying ignorance, not railing about privilege, is really where the fight will be won. When more people know and understand healthy, functioning families that happen to be poly, the fear that excludes us from privileges diminishes.

How can you show someone who you are in a way that expands their mind? Who can you reach out to, in some small way, to dispel an irrational fear? Create a new attitude in each person whose life you touch by being who you are without apology or trepidation. I am privileged to be living my life on my terms, and no individual or societal expectation can change that unless I allow it.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Over the winter break, I was playing Jenga with my daughter and partners. It's a game where pieces are taken from the lower levels, then stacked on top. One pulls out pieces that aren't (hopefully!) structurally integral, adding them to the upper level, until the entire tower collapses, ending the game. Seeing the sway of the blocks, I considered the value of stability.

When I think of all the things I want in life, stability makes my top ten for sure! Some may find that odd in a poly context. After all, isn't it more likely for drama to be a part of things when you have more than one partner? Eh, I haven't found that to be the case. It's the individuals that comprise the whole that contribute to a stable system, or create one that is in a consistent state of uncomfortable flux.

Considering my current relationships, I enjoy the sense of dynamic growth, how each piece reinforces, rather than tears down, the others. When one section is struggling, having a strong whole means that the entire structure doesn't fall apart. There is room for "additions" to the structure, and I try to remain aware of how each new piece impacts the whole by taking care that additions enhance, rather than detract, from the overall stability of the relationships I value.

Any structure is only as solid as the materials that go into it, so partner selection and personal growth continue to be major strategies in building a robust, deeply-rooted network. Who I am, and who I choose to be with, are within my sphere of control. Selecting skills to cultivate, understanding my own participation in desirable/undesirable outcomes, and seeing partners for who they are, instead of who I would like them to be, are key to good material selection.

There have been some major remodeling projects in 2010. 2011 is focused on strong foundational elements, creating multiple points of support and reinforcement that will positively contribute to stability in the years to come. It's an exciting time, and I anticipate helping create an amazing "tower" that I share with my partners, one level firmly seated upon the next.