I can’t really take this anymore, people, and it’s not your fault. The schism between what others perceive and the reality of my relational life seems to grow wider by the day. If you know anything about me, you are probably aware of my driving need for authentic self-expression. I don’t expect everyone else to be like me. What I need for others to realize, though, is that, for me, there is a huge cost associated with not being able to write or speak freely. It’s a cost that’s in my face every single day. And today I realized, I’m broke. I can’t pay this cost.
I have made various attempts at self-disclosure, picking my way to the words that felt relatively safer to use, the people who felt safer to disclose to. Let me tell you, this feeling of gingerly tiptoeing around, avoiding landmines that could explode at any moment, is not something I relish. I’m exhausted. My energy is diverted, and I need that energy, badly. I need it for me, and my child, and everyone I love, and my small, mortal life. (And the mad mission that is my Kickstarter project.)
There are many people that I know solely in an online context who assume, understandably, that I am single. This troubles me a great deal, because I’m not, and yet in some crucial ways, I am. There are also people who know me in person who assume that I am a conventionally married woman with all the associated assumptions that implies. I would rather be plain with you all about my current relational status, because the assumptions and ambiguity and sense of secrecy and implications of shame are more than I can bear anymore.
I am married. My husband is a good person, someone I love and admire in many ways, and I know that he feels similarly about me. Despite that, there are conflicts between us and needs that are unmet. We are evaluating and negotiating these things, with assistance. We are in a phase of trying to determine how best to configure our lives, as individuals and as a family. I hasten to add that simply because I’m bringing this up doesn’t mean that I wish to disclose everything, and I ask that you respect the fact that I still have boundaries. In addition, my husband is a far more private person than I am, and it’s difficult for him to witness me writing about him to any degree. I don’t wish to hurt him, ever. I don’t wish to suffer, either. I have written what I need to write and shown it to him before publishing it.
Furthermore, I am polyamorous. What this means is that I have the capacity to love and be romantically involved with more than one person at a time, given the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved. It’s not for everyone, I fully realize, and it involves considerable effort, and it is worth it to me, to feel whole.
As a result of the aforementioned things, I struggle mightily with standard relationship designations. Recently on Facebook I tried to change my relationship status to “it’s complicated,” and Facebook recorded it as “Jen Hartley is in a complicated relationship.” This wording frustrated me, and I felt unable to elaborate much further. I’m not really happy with leaving it at “it’s complicated,” or not indicating my polyamorous nature. I’m also not happy with such designations as “single,” “married,” “available,” “taken”— all of these words trouble me deeply. I don’t see relationships as a system of ownership. I don’t see myself or anyone as “on the market” or “off the market.” The idea of relationships being in a marketplace is odious to me. I am not “single” and I am forever “single”— how could I ever be defined as being alone in the world? And how can my individuality and uniqueness be denied, no matter what relational configuration I find myself in? I’m also disturbed by the elevation of romantic relationships above other relationships, as if they have a higher ranking than, say, close friendships, or family members, or community bonds. People are so interested in knowing one’s relationship status in a romantic sense, but what if we were just as curious to know whether someone had a strong relationship with their friends, family and community? How do those extraordinarily important relationships get demoted? How can there be such passive acceptance of such entrenched hierarchies of intimacy?
Some of you may recall another blog post I wrote about coming out, on National Coming Out Day in October. I’m glad I can make that previous statement more complete now.
May we reveal ourselves to the extent that we wish to be known, with the timing and ways that feel right.