relationships

Marriage, Re-marriage, and how I’ve never been afraid of commitment

During that strange period between when my former partner and I had decided that we would be getting divorced and when we actually separated, I (obviously?) had a lot of conversations about marriage and divorce with various friends and relations.

In the midst of one rather long and freewheeling conversation, I had one friend mention that – while they liked the idea of marriage in some ways – they didn’t understand how people could ever make the decision to do it. Because, after all, how do you know it’s going to work out?

I didn’t manage to articulate an answer at the time, but at it’s heart, this question always seems to miss the point for me. Because, um, of course you don’t know for sure it’s going to work out. Whether or not it works out isn’t ever going to be entirely in your own control even, since there’s another person involved, plus just the unpredictability of life in general. And anyway, in my case even if I had thought I knew for sure when I got married, I was proven wrong in the end.

But I never thought that in the first place. I actually went in with a very clear awareness that we might not be married forever, that getting married was just one of many choices we were going to be making throughout our lives about our relationship and what togetherness looked like for us.

I went into that marriage not knowing where it would lead us. But I also went in knowing a whole lot of other, much more important things.

I knew it was what I wanted.

I knew that the idea of us being together for the rest of our lives, as married people, made me happy.

I knew I liked the idea of sharing our lives and growing old together.

In short, I knew that if it did work out, it would be great.

I knew that based on the information I had available at the time, I was making a good decision.

I knew that if I didn’t at least try to have this thing with this person, I would regret it.

And because of all of that, I also knew that if for some reason it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t regret having made the decision to try.

And even now, I know that it was the right decision.

I know because, when we were married, I never doubted that it was what I wanted. Every day, I knew I wanted to be with this person, for the rest of my life.

And, nevertheless, it didn’t work out. I still have feelings about that, because of course I do, it’s an emotional sort of thing. I spent a lot of years planning for and make decisions around building a life that is no longer an option, and that will never come to be.

That really sucks. It just really, really sucks.

But, all of this also means that now, more than ever, I trust myself to make good decisions about who I want to marry.

So, while experiences of divorce – whether it’s our parents’ or our own – most often make people more reluctant to make that leap again (or at all), everything that has gotten me to where I am now, planning my second marriage, just makes me more sure that I’m doing the right thing, for me.

Because I know what I’m getting myself into, and I know that it’s what I want.

I know I want to try to have this thing, with this person.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Blog Notes: Nomenclature?

Just a lil post to let y’all know that the person I’ve been referring to as “former spouseperson” (formerly just “spouseperson” (formerly “my spouse” (formerly called by a gendered spousal term because that’s how long I’ve been writing this blog :P))) will henceforth be known as my “complicated lifeperson“.

Because titles are hard sometimes, but that’s what feels right.

That is all.

Reflections on 2016

Let’s see how this year sized up compared to the last:

Work-related stuff

In March of this year, I landed my first permanent public library gig! My permanent position is casual (i.e. less than 20hrs/wk), but thanks in part to being a union member now, since late September I’ve been filling in for a full-time position. I will be full-time until at least August 2017, though I expect I’ll actually move into a better permanent position by then.

Well, that’s the boring stuff, anyway. The good stuff is: I love my job. Obviously there is bureaucratic fuckery to be had sometimes, and I am still getting myself used to the time-scale of planning most things (you really have to be on top of things at least six months ahead of time to make them happen, and that is so not me), but holy wow do I love doing youth services at a public library. It’s what I want to do with my life, I have clawed my way here, and it is everything I had hoped it would be. I’ve finally found a place, professionally, and it’s great.

I’m excited to see what this year will bring.

Creating stuff

This has been a year of unprecedented productivity for me here on Valprehension, with 137 posts published! This, on top of picking up doing some writing for two of my library’s three blogs, means I have been writing up a storm. Yay!

I have not done a lot of crafting this year, though. Just two cross-stitch projects completed this year, though they are both awesome imho!

First, I made this in the summer, immortalizing the way a partner first dropped the l-bomb on me:

Picture (and words :P) from John D. Botelho

Picture (and words :P) from John D. Botelho

Second, I  recently made this for all-around amazing person, past guest blogger Spice and  writer of Dating while Feminist, taken from one of her tweets:

Photo credit: John D. Botelho

Photo credit: John D. Botelho

I have many plans for more like this! Thank goodness I have so many inspiring people in my life :)

I also have great intentions to get back into knitting (maybe start making socks?) one day soon, but it remains to be seen whether that will happen. I know I’ll read this next year when I’m writing my 2017 reflections, so hey future self! Did you do the thing?

Relationships

Romantic-wise: former spouseperson and I are still working on figuring out what we are to each other, and what our relationship is going to look like moving forward. Right now, it’s baby steps to try to reestablish intimacy that was lost during times of some of my most difficult feelings, and a much-needed short break around the end of the summer. Former spouseperson is I guess also technically inaccurate – we’re not in any particular rush to divorce; I’m actually on their work’s health insurance as I have none of my own, and stuff. Anyway, we have been living apart since March of this year (we actually moved out almost the same week I started my new job, and somehow I didn’t die of stress. Go me!), and we still see each other about once a week.

ALSO THOUGH, some of you may have noticed that I have stopped whinging all the time about my fears and despair around whether or not I’m ever going to figure out my whole having-kids plan. It’s not just because I got as bored of it as you probably were; it’s because while I was whinging and despairing, my life produced its own solution in the sense that my other partner is totes on board with having kids with me – basically, apparently in addition to all of my various and sundry privilege as a human I *also* am living a kind of charmed life that can’t even be explained by that privilege? There’s still a bunch of steps before we get to the point of actually trying to produce a child, but having a clear direction to aim at means I feel much better again. Also super happy and just generally feeling so fortunate to have found a wonderful human who apparently thinks I am also pretty great and stuff!

Non-romantic-wise: I continue to have amazing friends that I love and who love me, both old and new, and honestly I just feel so lucky all the time and yay.

Family stuff is also good! My mom and I still have a pretty stable relationship. Both of my brothers are just wonderful people, and I am so glad to have them in my life. And I am super comfortable with the fact that I am still not in contact with my dad (he continues to disregard my conditions for reconciliation and has tried a few times manipulate me into talking to him but I persevere – I am not getting back on that merry-go-round for anything).

Misc Other Stuff

This year was also super interesting for me in that I was invited (and agreed) to participate in a couple of panels, one on trans issues, and another on non-monogamy. Both were very fun experiences, and I learned a whole lot from the other panelists in both cases. Also I apparently sounded like I knew what I was talking about, so yay! More than anything else I think that this was something that drove home tome the idea that I have truly entered adulthood, since people now see me as someone with authority/significant life experience on things, which is kind of cool!

So that was my year! Pretty good, all in all :)

Relationship anarchy and me: November 2016 Carnival of Aces Submission

[This post is in response to the November 2016 Carnival of Aces, hosted by It’s An Ace Thing on the topic of Relationship Anarchy]

Oh boy, do I have thoughts about this month’s theme! I suspect this post will be a bit of a rambly mess, but at least some of y’all seem to enjoy my rambly messes, so I guess this one’s for you!

Before I dive in, though, a quick(ish) definition: relationship anarchy is best described as the attitude that the only rules governing the function and form of your relationships with others are the rules set by the people in those relationships. In practice, this means consciously relinquishing (though not necessarily going against the tide of) societal rules and definitions for what relationships (of whatever kind) should look like, what they should mean, and how they should be valued.

The relationships a relationship anarchist participates in could look like anything: they may make monogamous sexual and/or romantic commitments, or they may not; they may prioritize biological family, or romantic partnerships over other relationships, or they may not. The point in relationship anarchy is not to fit  or to defy any particular relationship models, but simply to try to build relationships without any regard for those models in the first place.

Hopefully that makes sense?

Now, me!

I have long felt a great deal of affinity with relationship anarchy – because a lot of societal norms around relationships don’t work for me anyway (I’m not straight; I am demi*; I’m … um, just don’t ever tell me bio-family relationships are inherently valuable, mmkay?), I’ve naturally gravitated toward trying to finding my own path through the wilderness of human relationships.

I’ve also been thinking about this stuff a lot, because I’ve been dealing with a lot of disruption in my romantic/sexual (the two very much go hand-in-hand for me – at this point, I feel it safe to say that I don’t experience sexual attraction unless I am falling in love with – or already in love with – someone) entanglements over the last 1-2 years, and I’ve been actively trying to figure out what sorts of relationship structures I want to have in my life.

I haven’t had an exclusive sexual or romantic commitment in more than a decade, but at the same time I don’t take ‘polyamorous’ as one of my identities, particularly. Polyamory is something I’ve been practicing for some time, but it’s not fundamental for me; it’s the way my relationships have been built over the last while, for a complicated bunch of reasons, none of which are as cut-and-dried as they once were. For the first time in a long while, basically, it’s something that’s at least open to negotiation for me.

Weirdly, I started writing this post thinking I was going to get around to the reasons that I don’t really identify with relationship anarchy when it gets right down to it, but I actually think it’s a perfect fit for at least the way I try to approach all my relationships. While I’ve definitely internalized some of the messages I’ve been raised with about what various kinds relationships ‘should’ look like, and that impacts my own approach and desires within relationships, but ultimately my relationships are reasonably collaborative efforts, and I’m not bothered when they don’t look like the norm.

I also kind of suspect that this is true for most people when you get right down to it. Even those that feel the pressure of norms very often flout them when it is convenient; some people are more likely to hide the non-normative aspects of their relationships than others, I guess, but I’m not sure that’s a relevant distinction here.

What this says to me is that relationship anarchy is more important as a concept than an identity (at least for me). I think it is important to actively talk about how it’s ok and probably even important to let your relationships deviate from norms, because trying to use a one-size-fits-all model is a recipe for disaster in most cases. Relationship anarchy is a great model because it centres mutual consent and active communication rather than assumptions around relationship questions like sexual and romantic exclusivity, what does and does not constitute a breaking of any such commitments (since there is often a great deal of disagreement about this), and many other things.

I also think that the principles of relationship anarchy is particularly important and potentially useful for ace and aro people, simply because it is a model that inherently creates space for whatever kinds of intimate/interdependent relationships people want to build. The idea of making a lifelong commitment to someone that doesn’t involve sex and/or romance is still strangely revolutionary/unthinkable to many people, for instance, despite that fact that it may very be an ideal for many ace and/or aro people.

So, I guess I’m very happy to have this as a topic for the Carnival, and I look forward to reading everyone else’s submissions!


*er, ok, some kinds of relationship norms actually fit better with demisexuality than allosexuality (wait before having sex! Don’t do it with lots of people! or whatever), but nevertheless, within the (largely non-religious) dating eco-system where I find myself, it’s more of a problem than not.

Who are some people in your life, on or offline, who make your life better? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 28

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: Who are some people in your life, on or offline, who make your life better?

To be honest, most of the people in my life make it better. For one thing, if they didn’t they probably wouldn’t be in my life, but also, um, I like people? I don’t know.

There are definitely people who are more important than others. I feel kind of anxious about naming folks here, though, because what if I forget someone? I would feel so terrible.

I have amazing incredible friends, those I se regularly in person, irregularly in person, and those that I only know online (mostly through my writings here, though some of y’all I’ve also connected with on other social media, and even my personal facebook). I have wonderful partners. I have decent-to-amazing co-workers.

All of these people make my life richer.


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

Your first queer crush or relationship: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge Part 25

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: Your first queer crush or relationship

This is a weird prompt to be a part of a genderqueer challenge, because um, wouldn’t any romantic/sexual crushes or relationships we enbies have be queer? They sure can’t be straight. Add to that the apparent prevalence of ace and aro identities in non-binary people, and it seems even more out of place.

But I digress.

My first romantic relationship was queer, even relative to the gender I identified with at the time. When I was 18, I told my best friend from high school that I was in love with her, and it turned out that the feeling was mutual! We dated long-distance (she was in Toronto for university, and I was living in Nova Scotia at the time, a whole tiem zone away) for a little over a year before she broke up with me.

It was my first love, and it was beautiful and mind-bending and gave me so many feelings I had never had before and it was great. It was also scary and I was had no idea what I was doing, and I wasn’t as good a partner as I could or should have been.

Yeah. Not sure how interesting that is to anyone, but there ya go!


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

How has your relationship with the cisgender people in your life changed? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge Part 24

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: How has your relationship with the cisgender people in your life changed?

This is a really big question, and I’ll try to stick to generalities in answering it, although obviously the answer is different for each person.

In general, my relationships have not been significantly impacted by my coming out as genderqueer. I am fortunate that most of the cisgender people in my life took my coming out as an opportunity to demonstrate their care and respect for me, in various ways. Coming out about things like this has the sort of back-handed advantage of really making it clear to you who is in your corner, who will fight for you, who will take up some of the emotional labour involved in dealing with people’s various reactions, and many other things.

And I’ve been very lucky in that regard, though I’ve also managed to avoid unnecessary damage to relationship by choosing my method of coming out carefully.

This is clearest with respect to my parents; I came out to them in an email, specifically because I knew their initial response was likely to involve a lot of emotional ugliness, and it seemed like a kindness to myself and to our relationship to allow them to have those responses when I wasn’t there looking at them. It definitely helped.

I don’t really know what else to say to this. Obviously, as I’ve become more aware of trans issues in general, cissexism and trans erasure have become things that I am always aware of, and I often find myself exhausted by cisgender people, in the same way that I feel exhausted by people who are uneducated on and/or unaffected by other forms of oppression that I am keyed into.

I guess in general, coming out has not drastically impacted my relationships with individual cisgender people, but it has made me more wary of cis folks in general, and less enthusiastic about forming new relationships with cis people, unless I know they are already aware of non-binary genders, and pretty good on trans stuff in general. Cis people have to come with trans references basically :P


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

Rethinking what works

A problem I am having right now: even though I am feeling a very strong urge to be *doing* things to move toward the life I want to be living (specifically with respect to the building-a-family part of that), because I always feel less anxious about things when I am actively taking control of the things I can control, I also just, like, really, really (really) am not into the idea of dating.

Part of this is almost certainly that I just need to be nice to myself; I am still very much in the midst of healing from having my marriage end, and that is taking up a lot of emotional bandwidth, and it will tke time tomove through that.

But I also know that there has never been a time when the prospect of dating actually seemed exciting to me. It is just stressful to think about really, almost all the time.

To clarify: by ‘dating’ here I don’t even really mean ‘pursuing romantic relationships’ in general – actually hanging out with and developing relationships with people I like is great and not stressful. It’s the part where I go on first dates with people that I don’t know how I am going to feel about that I hate.

Ok, I mean, maybe most people hate that? I guess what I mean is more, like, it just straight-up doesn’t work, because that kind of dating doesn’t give me the emotional space I need to connect with people in the first place, somehow?

And I actually read a thing recently that threw thse feelings into relief for me. It’s a comment from this reddit thread:

Dating isn’t for everyone, I think. It definitely wasn’t for me. Friend-to-relationship is the only thing that’s ever worked for me

Which, like, this both does and does not apply to me. I don’t really need to have a developed friendship with someone first, and I don’t even think that’s the ‘best’ thing for me, but I kind of think that *all* of my romantic relationships (even with people I met on OKCupid) have come from a place where on first meeting the person, I wasn’t really looking for something romantic necessarily.

My first two romantic relationships were with people I had known for years. Then there’s my ex-spouse, who I met on OKC, but I wasn’t looking for anything serious at the time (oops). I had another short relationship with someone I’d known for years. I met another person on OKC (again, with a very “well, whatever” attitude going in). And my current boyfriend I met at party for a mutual friend.

…I don’t even really know what I’m saying here. The main point I wanted to make, though:

For whatever reason, reading the above quote suddenly made me give myself permission to reconsider the way I’ve been trying to think about approaching finding new partners. It’s ok for me to say “this approach doesn’t work for me”. That’s ok.

I hate that it takes someone else saying it openly and with self-acceptance for me to also accept that in myself, but it did.

Anyway, I think that for now I will be focusing my energies on doing things that let me expand my social circles and meet new people in non-dating contexts. And I’ll probably be taking even that slowly for now.

And I’m writing it down because I’m more likely to remember it this way.

Schrodinger’s divorce

So, I am getting divorced. I just realized I never explicitly said that here, although I wrote directly about the reason why earlier this year. I haven’t written a lot about it here because my former spouse-person does read this stuff, and I have been doing my best not to unfairly throw my feelings at them around this (so, to you, fair warning that you may not want to read this one, I guess). I need to get this stuff out, though, and processing these kinds of feelings has been one of the major things this blog does for me, and I’m not willing to continue sacrificing this outlet for the sake of whatever-has-been-holding-me-back, so here we go.

My divorce is very amicable. The post linked above gives you the sunniest of all of my attitudes toward it, and its the one I’ve worked very hard to keep in the forefront as I’ve gone through the motions.

The short version is, when we decided to get married, I was very clear on the fact that marrying me was also a commitment to have kids with me, and my partner agreed to that. And then last year, about five years in, they let me know that they had realized they don’t want to have kids after all. Our divorce isn’t anyone’s fault, and neither of us did anything wrong.

And yet.

That’s not the only story there is to tell. And I can’t always stick to that one either, because it doesn’t even begin to honour all of the feelings I have about it.

Because the thing is, I am angry. I am so goddamn angry. I feel betrayed. I feel abandoned. The life I have been actively and consciously working on building has been torn down around me and I the only thing left standing is me, alone. (I mean, not really, but also yes really, that is what it feels like).

Because the other story goes something like this:

I met an amazing wonderful person who honestly change my life. Our relationship was just comfortable and good right from the start, and I knew I wanted to be with them, as much as I have ever known anything. They were someone I wanted to be with, and they were someone I loved the idea of raising kids with, specifically.

They were less sure at first (less sure about whether they wanted to marry at all ever; less sure about whether they wanted kids at all ever) but after a few years we decided to get married and that’s what we did.

For me, this meant we were a team, that I was no longer just building a life for myself, but rather we were working together to build a life (or two parallel lives anyway) for the both of us. And I loved this. This made me really happy.

I made different life choices than I would have without them. I limited my job searches to Toronto and the surrounding areas (despite the fact that both my career path and the whole having kids thing would have been easier elsewhere), because they were not willing to consider moving and I wanted to be where they would be. Every time we changed apartments, the search was more stressful and difficult than necessary for me, because they didn’t want to live in a high-rise, but since I can live happily just about anywhere, their preferences were the ones that mattered.

I forgave infidelity. More than once. And it wasn’t even hard, because when it came down to it, I knew this was the person I wanted to be with. I could feel it in my bones, and it was as simple as that, for me, always. We figured out better boundaries that were reasonable for both of us, that they could live within and that I could feel comfortable with.

We had a really good and strong marriage, to be honest. It of course had its problems, and we each had things about the other that were trying and wearing, because we are human, but we were dedicated finding ways of making it work, and we did a damn good job of it. Our marriage survived career changes (for both of us). Gender transitions (for both of us). The aforementioned infidelities. We barely even flinched.

But.

Over and over again, we put off having kids. Because they weren’t ready for that yet. Because they had a list of conditions we needed to meet before that could happen, some of which were reasonable, and some of which kept changing. Primarily though, they were stuck working retail and it was miserable and was causing them chronic pain problems, and it was priority to get them out of that hole, and obviously that is all reasonable. So I dedicated myself to helping them figure out what would make them happier to do for a living. I listened to them and helped them figure out their options for changing their career path. And they started working toward an awesome career path (one they are now pretty solidly on). I supported them through a year of school, after having more or less supported myself through my own school (apparently I can work and do a master’s degree at the same time, but they can’t. Whatever. This is the pettiest I’m going to get, I promise.)

I am most bitter about that year, though, because it was actually right when the light at the end of this tunnel finally came into view that they dropped the bomb on me. They were still in the middle of school at the time, and even though we both knew what it meant that they had decided to to not have kids, I decided I would continue to support them until they finished school and got a job, and then we’d start disentangling our finances, and everything else.

To be very, very clear: right up until that conversation happened, I had really thought we’d probably be actually seriously able to look at having kids within a year, or maybe two on the outside (i.e. around right now, as it happens). Instead, we are getting divorced and I don’t know whether that is ever a thing that will happen for me anymore.

There are so few things that I was unwilling or unable to compromise on. There are so many things I did compromise on, so many things I gave up on to be with them, and to help them reach their goals. And there was one thing in the entire world I wouldn’t give up for them, and that’s the one thing they decided they wouldn’t help me with.

It is the actual worst thing they could have done, within the realm of things it would have been even remotely plausible for them to do.

And so I am angry. I am angry that I have given up so many small and large potential opportunities in my life because I thought we were working together toward this one goal that is more important to me than anything. I am angry that I have apparently wasted more than half a decade by trusting someone else’s intention to help me with this goal, when if they had never made me that promise, I would have been looking elsewhere, and maybe I would have found someone who actually shared my conviction and desire.

If I hadn’t trusted in this person, over and over again. If I hadn’t been willing to wait for them. If I hadn’t convinced myself they were worth it, that it would work out in the end, who knows where I’d be now?

It definitely couldn’t be any more of a mess than this.

And so I’m angry. At myself, for trusting the wrong person. At them, for not wanting a thing I want so desperately for them to want.

I think about all the work and effort that went into the project that was our marriage, and I look at the nothing it has come to (half of the savings I thought I had; half of the furniture needed to fill an apartment; I feel like a failed adult).

And I feel so utterly abandoned.

The worst part is, I don’t even really want to start over. What I want is to turn back the clock two years, to when everything was still ok. When I was happy.

I still want the life we were building together. Yes, I want children above all else, and that is that choice I have made, but I also really very much wanted specifically to share that with this particular person. I can’t imagine a better life than the one I was promised to me and then had taken away.

Of course, there is no going back. I couldn’t even get those feelings back if I had the option to, any more. But I don’t know how to move forward from this, either.

I know that part of what I need it time. I know these things will heal. They have to.

And despite everything, I know my life is pretty ok, even great in many ways. I have a job I really, really love, that is fulfilling and that I am usually excited to go to. There are so many wonderful people in my life who love me and support me in various ways, and who I get to love and support as well. My life is full of wonderful things. The core of my life has fallen apart, but I am still in one piece, as I always have been, as I always am.

But at the same time, I am still really looking forward to the day when I can finally say that I got through an entire a week without crying myself to sleep.

And it is still very distinctly possible that the gamble I made on this marriage will ultimately mean that I never do get to have kids. To be honest, I think that is why I can’t decide how much anger it is appropriate for me to have, how much it is appropriate to actually direct at my partner, or at myself. Because only time will answer for me whether this is a forgivable betrayal on their part, whether this was a forgivable mistake on my part.

Only time will tell whether this is really an amicable break-up.

So yeah, it’s Schrodinger’s divorce.

Are you part of the Gender and Sexuality Minority community? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 14

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: Are you part of the Gender and Sexuality Minority community?

I feel like I implicitly answered this question already? I don’t believe there is such a thing as the GSM community. And I definitely wouldn’t want to be part of it if there was.

To be totally, I’m not really seriously involved in any communities organized explicitly around any of the identities under the GSM or LGBTQIA+ umbrellas. I have plenty of queer and/or trans friends. I participate in and have hosted the Carnival of Aces, which I suppose means I contribute to online asexual community(/ies). And I sometimes attend events organized by Polyamory Toronto, a meetup group for people interested in Polyamory – I was even a panelist on their first-ever Poly 101 panel this year.

I do also consider you, my readers, and the bloggers I read, to be a part of my extended community, and many of y’all are non-binary and/or trans and/or on the ace spectrum, so I do participate in community around these identities online.

What I have is a complicated network of largely disorganized but often mutually-supportive connections around various shared identities and experiences. If that is what community is, than I am a part of many wonderful communities, but The GSM community? No thanks.


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!