The Lonely Poly

Content: This post includes mentioning of an abusive partner, but no explicit details.

 

I don’t know how old I was the first time I realized that I could feel romantic kinds of love for more than one person at the same time. At the time when it happened I didn’t know that there were other people who felt the same and to me it wasn’t an identity, I just considered it one of my flaws.

A couple of years later I was familiar with the term polyamorous and I had found a couple of people to talk to about it. I had come to the point of articulating the question “How does it come that it’s considered perfectly fine to love more than one child, more than one friend, more than one sibling or parent, but never ever to love more than one person as a romantic partner?” To me, this was an honest question but most people outside my poly community seemed to interpret it as a rhetorical question intended to provoke. I didn’t want to provoke, I wanted answers. I wanted to know what I could do to either stop feeling the way I did, because it was obviously so wrong to most people, or to figure out a way to live with my feelings without hating myself for it.

Because, even though I ended up as a speaker in workshops with such great answers about all relationships being hard and demanding work and what not, I never actually figured out how to deal with myself. I had a girlfriend and after a while a boyfriend too, and it didn’t work. I ended up with the same problems as in most relationships of any kind, but so much worse. Everything that was difficult for me in relationships was intensified to a point that teared me apart. Having more than one partner and taking a totally different direction than the conventional path with one partner at a time meant that I was exposed to being misunderstood by more than one person at the same time. Everything that was weird about me, all the stuff I didn’t have words for, became even more weird and impossible to relate to. Living a poly life with all the unpredictability that came with it made me more lonely than ever.

Today, I think that there were many reasons for this. One was that the girlfriend mentioned above was mean and actually abusive, another was that I didn’t understand myself as an autistic person with sensory and emotional overloads. I need to have plenty of time on my own to process and when I didn’t get this I had so many meltdowns that I never understood. I need to know that my processing time is something that will be respected, something that I didn’t experience in most relationships. At one point I was sure that the poly thing wasn’t for me, that it was just a phase and that I needed to put it behind me, so I did. Or, I tried to.

I’m still able to feel romantic kinds of love for more than one person, but today I live in a monogamous relationship. My partner accepts that I’m polyamorous but I hardly have energy to maintain my relationship with him, and there’s absolutely no practical possibility for anybody else. But, I loved someone else too a couple of years ago and until recently I’ve felt so guilty about it. I had forgot that it’s possible to love two people at the same time and felt like I let my partner down by loving someone else too. And then it hit me a couple of days ago that just because I couldn’t handle more than one partner at a time doesn’t mean I don’t have the ability to love two people.

The answer doesn’t help if I don’t know the question

I’ve been writing about Liz recently. The memories of her have been haunting me, partly because I miss her, partly because there were a couple of things about our relationship and what happened that I could never grasp. Feeling confused in relationships is so common to me that I take it for granted, however, with Liz my confusion was worse than usual. (I have a problem with delayed processing, which means that it takes time for me to process and understand interactions. I come across as indifferent or cold when I don’t understand what’s going on in the moment.)

Yesterday when I was writing about her, one of the knots untangled. I could finally phrase a question that I’ve had the answer to for a while, but since I didn’t know what question I was asking myself the answer didn’t help much. My post from yesterday is called Would you love me as disabled? and that’s what I’m wondering. The very painful answer is no, I don’t think she would. At the moment I can’t say if this is a rational assumption or just my internalized ableism talking, but I don’t think she would have had much feelings at all for the disabled me.

Being with her was exhausting because I was so exposed, so bare, and still I tried to keep up the appearance of being the non-disabled version of me. It was an impossible mission and that’s probably why I froze so many times.

 

Ableism From the Outside to the Core

In my last post I wrote about ableism in romantic relationships, with an example of power dynamics within the relationship. With only one example it was by no means an exhaustive account for how ableism can operate within romantic relationships, and at some point I want to elaborate more on this topic. Before I do that, I need to sort out some thoughts on how ableism can affect a romantic relationship on a different level.

I have spent a couple of years trying to wrap my head around a specific experience of how an ableistic society made a relationship impossible. As some readers of this blog probably have noticed, I was once in the beginning of a relationship with someone that I refer to as Liz. It’s probably annoying to some people that I’m a bit cryptic when I write about her, but I have to in order to protect both myself and her. Anyway, the story about Liz took place a couple of years ago but it’s not until recently that I could begin describing to myself what actually happened.

I was deeply in love with her. She told me she loved me and wanted to be with me. I froze and couldn’t tell her how I felt. She thought I was indifferent. The truth was that I couldn’t give her what she wanted in terms of a relationship, because of my (and my child’s) disablities. Because of an inaccessible, oppressive society that puts up obstacles and deny chronically ill and disabled people adequate help and healthcare. So I let her go, I didn’t even fight for her. Instead, I felt ashamed to the point where I thought I was a disgrace to… well, I don’t know to what. To love maybe, because how could I claim that I loved her when I didn’t even give a relationship with her a fair chance?

And yes, I’m still being secretive about the details necessary to make sense of what happened, simply because I still can’t grasp the reality of ableism. I’m hovering over a specific thing here, a part of reality that I can’t make myself write in plain text. Not yet.

The point is that romantic relationships are affected by ableism in more ways than just as a form of power dynamics within the relationship. The fact that a specific manifestation of ableism comes from outside the relationship doesn’t mean that it stays there. My experience is that it can permeate what I feel, how I act and what I communicate to the point where it’s playing the leading part, without me detecting it.

My relationship status

Sometimes I write stuff about my love life that may seem confusing. As a matter of fact, it is confusing even to me. My relationships to other people are complicated. All of them (except for the relationship to my kid). I will probably never spell out exactly what kind of relationship I have with the one I call my partner, because I can’t. I know what I have, but just like most things regarding identity and sexuality it doesn’t match the relationship logics that I have a language for.

At some point I hope I can write a bit more about how I feel about relationships to other people. How hard I often find it to make the clear distinction between romantic love and friendship love. But right now, I need to rest. I’ve had an emotionally intense weekend and my head is boiling.

I let her go because I didn’t understand my autistic self

I loved somebody. I still love her but I’m trying not to. Now I’m just mourning the fact that I never got to know her well enough. Not because she wasn’t trying, she was, but I was so caught up in hiding everything about myself that I didn’t understand. I blew it. When she told me that she was in love with me and wanted to be in a relationship with me I was just silent. I wanted to tell her that I loved her insanely, that I just wanted to be close to her. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t because my health was going down and I was terrified.

It’s almost two years since we talked the last time, besides from superficial and polite “Happy birthdays” on Facebook. Every time she likes something I post on instagram I start shaking. Today I got the stupid idea that I could send her a message wishing her a Merry Christmas. Just to be in touch. I’m happy that I realised that it’s an bad idea. She has moved on.

I let her go because I didn’t understand my autistic self and was way too scared to stop working myself into exhaustion to keep on passing. I let her go because my health was just getting worse and I didn’t understand what was happening. I let her go because all the fainting, the irregular heartbeat, the brainfog, the fevers scared me. I let her go because I could never give her what she wanted. I let her go because I love her.