Our Feb topic of “Date -> Marry -> Kids!?” was sparked by a guest’s comment that her parents were pushing her to marry and have children. The resulting discussion encompassed a number of topics:
- What’s the purpose of relationships, for you? What do you desire or expect? How do you approach them?
- How have your relationships evolved over time? What’s challenging? What’s working well?
- What parts of monogamy, classic “dating progression,” traditional gender roles, etc work well for you — and what doesn’t?
- What role does marriage play, for you? Why would you or did you get married?
- How do/might children fit into your life?
- What would dating look like if children were not a focus?
Below are some of our questions and takeaways from the discussion! Use them as a jumping off point to ask your own questions or have your own insights — take what is interesting or useful to you, and don’t worry about the rest.
A special thank you to Rob for sharing this Ethical Non-Monogamy Resource List — a curated collection of books, podcast, blogs, and comics!
Excerpt from Rob’s Ethical Non-Monogamy Resource List:
- More Than Two: A practical guide to ethical polyamory by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. This book turns experience in poly relationships into a practical, down-to-earth guidebook offering useful information on everything from ethics to poly relationship forms to sexual health.
- The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities by Dossie Easton and Catherine Lizst. Considered one of the definitive guides to “responsible non-monogamy.” It discusses polysexuality – the practice of multiple sexual partners in an ethical framework – and is a good read for anyone interested in polyamory.
- Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino. Part anecdote, part interviews with poly couples, part advice, this wonderful book is an outstanding answer to the question “So how do you make non-monogamy work, anyway?” Through interviews, this book covers several styles of polyamory, swinging, and even polyamory for single people. There’s a companion blog as well.
As a starting point, we took everyone’s reasons for attending the discussion and created questions for different groups — goals & expectations of relationships, the role of children, how relationships impact identity, and different relationship structures/patterns/designs. Here’s the question list!
We reviewed the dinner’s guidelines of being curious (learn something from everything), verbalising beliefs (saying “I” rather than “you” or “we”), and being brief (saying “why” we’re saying/asking that specific thing), then jumped right into the discussion!
PURPOSES OF RELATIONSHIPS
- I want to find partners that challenge me, people to learn with
- I’d like support for when I’m stressed — providing emotional stability to each other
- I like people who balances my strengths and weaknesses
- I think there’s always a leader and a follower
- I seek a space to develop autonomy and independence, to be a better version of me
- Is a relationship about adventure? enjoy being with someone, in the present? a life partner (focus on trust on reliability)?
- There’s a lot of pressure for a partner to be everything — reliable, stable, passionate, seductive, great friends, business partners, like-minds — and that kind of pressure has made me stay away from relationships. I think each person relates to each other person in different, nuanced ways.
PURPOSES OF MARRIAGE
- I used to to view marriage as “to the end of our lives,” but know I think it’s about committing to a partner to learn with and live with… and in the future, it’s possible that we’ll move in different directions and learn/live more with other people
- A way to make downpayment on HDB and secure good housing early
- Have kids at a healthy time, and a structure to support a family
- A legal convenience for traveling and working abroad
- An expression of love and practicing love — to work through tough times together and keep the other’s best interests in mind
- “What’s wrong with you if you can’t get married?”
- Marriage feels like… clipping wings, no more freedom, sacrifice, too much commitment
- Maybe we should discuss parenting style when discussing marriage or longer-term dating! People usually stop at discussing whether or not they want to have kids.
- Deciding not to have children used to be an act of rebellion and now it is a personal choice
- I’d love to have a child, husband/father optional! I want to be a great parent and learn a lot.
- I’d like well-distributed children around the world. I believe different communities and environments serve as family.
- Immediately, I think of children = burden = sacrifice.
- There are so many negative narratives about getting married or having kids — on the other hand, all of my experiences and knowledge about families and children around me are so positive!
- I think if we rely on stereotypes (how relationships are supposed to work, who does what, when things are supposed to happen, what is good or bad, etc), we limit what is possible and likely end up with something that doesn’t work well for us
- I try to remember discomfort in relationships is useful… we won’t always feel safe and nice, and those are learning moments
- I’m concerned with averages — like the “normal timeline” of how long people date before they get married and when they have kids
- “Relationship Escalator” — I feel there’s this idea that relationships have to keep moving up at a steady place without getting stuck — that they can only go one direction and they should get there in a decent amount of time
- Assuming this relationship will be permanent is hard… It seems like we’re trying to squeeze into the roles of “future husband” and “future wife”
- The weight of partner to be everything traps them — with polyamorous relationships, the relationship we have with each person is different, so any particular person we are with can be exactly who they are. They don’t have to be more or different than they want to be.
THE MANY “SHOULD”S
- When do I do things for reasons that may not be my own?
- What I “should do” versus “what works for me” or “what I need” or “what would make life better”
- Instead of “I should do this,” I will now try using “I can, but won’t” — I want to make it clear that I’m always making choices
- Expectations that seem to be from others may be from ourselves
- People sometimes feel “forced” to make traditional choices — they feel like the victim
- I notice other’s judgements of my choices… I have not proposed to my girlfriend and our family often comments that it’s “not fair to her”
- When others seem to judge my choices or lash out at me, I try to remember that “how others treat you is more about where they are and how they are… than who you are”
EVOLVING RELATIONSHIPS OVER TIME
- My approach to being in a relationship has really changed after I graduated college and began my career — growth and learning became much more important, and passion and mystery were more off-putting
- I don’t think there was a moment where how my partner and I behave in a relationship changed… it’s more about slow shifts rather than sudden, pivotal moments
- I realise I don’t need everything from my partner — I have more social relationships and work mentors for example
- I need more constant reminders to accept people where they are — I try to change people in the way that I think is good for them, and when it doesn’t work, it really bothers me
- Luckily, we were very open in the beginning — about not wanting children, about feeling smothered in exclusive relationships, about wanting the possibility of seeing other people. This openness has greatly helped deepen our trust and intimacy with each other.
- How do I know what they want if they don’t communicate? What are different ways of communicating? How do I get this started?
DIFFERENT RELATIONSHIPS STRUCTURES
- Romantically and sexually exclusive relationships are the norm, it seems — a partner is a lover, best friend, support, and challenger. Cheating is defined differently between people, but is often kissing or genital contact, but flirting or watching porn may also be considered. The stereotype is to date for X years, then move in and get married and have kids.
- In my relationships, I can’t and don’t want to impose rules. You do what you want, and I don’t want to keep you from what you want. We stay safe, communicative, and supportive. This may be called relationship anarchy.
- In my marriage, we value our time and connection with each other above all else and check-in often on that. We do not limit outside romantic or sexual relationships. We have different preferences with how much we share with the other and how much we want to know in advance, and discuss this as needed!
- Each person I might be in a relationship with is different, and I create a unique relationship together with that person that works really well for the both of us!
- I know my preferences, but I don’t want to “over design,” set specific expectations outright, or compare different structures. I’m ok with this area being ambiguous until its explored with my partner(s).
- A theme I see in all these relationships is a strong focus on communication — on knowing one’s own desires, preferences, boundaries, and being open and brave by discussion them
NOTICING ONE’S OWN RELATIONSHIP PATTERNS
- Until I found out my own patterns, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy
- I’m a huge people pleaser… I want to make others happy and think others come before me, often sacrificing my own happiness. I want to remember that it is ok for me to be happy, too.
- I don’t fight, I negotiate. Strategizing ALL the time is very tiring…
- I suspect everyone is manipulative... I think, “he’s just saying that he’s shy to get girls – he’s not really shy”
- I’m addicted to new relationship energy — so much excitement and nervousness!
- Control. I’m always wondering if I have more control or if they have more control — how much do they impact me and vice versa. Now, I try to be more vulnerable, and give up control.
- I often try to “win” the relationship.
- I ask myself “why am I having this response to what they said/did?” What am I assuming or what am I afraid of?
TRUST & LOVE
- I trust that my partners are doing things in good faith -- they do not want to hurt me. If they did, it is not their intention, and we can talk about what happened.
- I imagine trust as a bank. When trust bank is at 0, everything is suspicious – doesn’t matter what what the other person did. Need to build that trust up before anything works.
- Trust that they will lean in to you.
- When people say “I love you,” it kind of means “I want to possess you,” “stay with me,” I want to have you”
- Love versus Loving – “We talk of love as if it were just one thing: in fact, it’s two very different moves, Loving and Being Loved.” from School of Life
- Love as verb versus as a noun — practice the activity of love. Unconditional vs just happening to really like the way you are now
- I think the test of love is mostly when something really difficult happens — chronic illnesses, disability, financial instability, etc.
I hope you enjoyed our questions/takeaways/perspectives! Take from this just what is useful or interesting to you.