At my Poly and Power salons, we’ve sometimes talked about roadmaps or the lack thereof. I find, these days, that I am standing on my carefully hewn path, staring at a Point B in the unbroken distance, and going “How the heck are we gonna get there from here??”
My wife says: “You know it’s Poly 201 when you’ve got multiple supportive, accepting families… and you need to negotiate how to manage all the Holiday Stuff without disapointing anyone”.
It’s funny, though, because there are roadmaps.
If Ghost and I were, say, a monogamous couple who had open-adopted a queer teenager who still had a good relationship with the parents-of-origin who weren’t well-equipt to take care of her… or if an older relative of mine (or hers) had moved into our (curently non-existant) secondary suite… there would be a road map for “How to NAvigate Christmas” (or Pass-Over, or whatever your High Holy Day of choice is). Maybe not a perfectly fitting one, but it’s there.
And so it’s still there when the New Family Member is somebody’s sweetheart.
My wife and I had a talk the other night, and I told her that, while I was worrying about things that probably wouldn’t be a problem, I was still worrying about things like “How are Kitty’s parents going to react to me (if they ever happen to meet me, that is)?” and “How are my relatives going to handle either the presence of one or more of your other partners – and the added “strain” of having extra gifts to find for extra people who they don’t really know – at their xmas festivities OR my absense from said festivities if we all go up to someone’s family cottage two years from now?”
And, of course, kids grow up. I know I’m carrying a lot of assumed/presumed responsibilities here for managing other people’s emotions and/or expectations, partly because I’m “The Stay-At-Home-Wife” in my poly family, and partly because I’m both the oldest and the geographically-closest-to-the-parent(s) child in my family-of-origin. I know that it wouldn’t really be the end of the world – I wouldn’t really be being a Bad Daughter – if I spent This or That holiday with family members who weren’t also blood-relatives. No-more than it was when my parents stopped “going home for Christmas” and started building their own traditions with the family they were building together.
But that baggage is hard to put down, and it makes those zig-zagging trails-in-potentia from Point A to Point B harder to find, the obstacles harder to field and ford.
I’m probably not the only person trying to navigate/integrate Poly Phamily with various other family events/obligations at this time of year, so I’m throwing this out there:
We can listen to the stories in our heads – the ones that say “So-and-so expects me to handle everybody’s social calendars” or “So-and-so assumes that Everyone’s Plans will revolve around what she wants to do” or “So-and-so is going to pitch a fit if he’s not included in All The Things” or “So-and-so doesn’t get how important X is to me, because zie doesn’t understand its/their place in my life or doesn’t want that for zirself”… or whatever – without recognizing that the tapes are playing…
Or we can recognize that those stories are there (over and over again, as may be the case – it’s rare than anyone figures this stuff out over night), acknowledge what they’re saying, and bring them out into the open: Not as outburst of “You don’t understand me!” or “What makes you think you’re so special?” or “Why doesn’t anybody care about what I need??” but as a gentle, honest voicing of the fears we hold and the vulnerabilities we often hide while we work through this stuff together.
It’s scary. But I think it will prove worth it, as well. 🙂