Forum newb, our poly life, looking for a friendly ear.
__/|\__ Namaste. I do apologize for the length of this post. I did not intend for it to be so verbose but I wanted to properly give one a feel for our family life... and mainly just to vent and remind myself of how good it used to be...
Well I suppose some quick background. I am a 41 year old gay male. My teenage years were of course filled with all the normal teen angst and drama along with the drama and angst of being gay. I eventually came out to my parents who supported me and said that all they wanted for me in life was to be happy and to find contentment. I met a boy in my senior year of high school who was a junior. We immediately hit it off and we have been together ever since.
"Brian" at first identified as gay and seemed surprisingly at ease in his own skin despite the rampant homophobia present in our school. When we went to college we stayed in contact and discussed at length the reality that things would probably not remain monogamous over distance. I was pained by this discussion at first, and decidedly hurt but came to accept it as 'the way things are'. We were open about the new people we met and casually 'dated'.
Soon I came to realize that he was being more 'secretive' or rather quiet about his relationships. Where we once shared stories about our dates and how they went and shared laughs about the ridiculous nuances he started to withdrawal. I finally pushed him on what would be my last winter break from school. He told me he had been seeing women and was afraid I would not approve.
I landed a nice job and bought a house that was within commuting distance to Brian's classes in a 'gay' part of town that had once been a 'bad neighborhood' but experienced a revitalization when the gays started buying up all the cheap property to renovate.
We moved in and quickly made it our home. I had lost interest in any of my prior partners on the side, but Brian continued to see this one young woman. I was surprised by how at ease I was with this and quickly became the norm to ask him how his date with "Liz" went when he came home on a Saturday or Sunday morning. After a few months out of the blue he asked if I would like to meet her. I was at first reticent and fearful that I would experience unfathomable jealousy but agreed that we should invite her to our home for dinner.
I was as scared as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs and when she arrived it was apparent she too was on edge. But all of that quickly evaporated as we both already knew so much about each other through Brian. I admit I was surprised at how much she knew about Brian and I and our relationship and how obviously open he was with her. We soon became extremely good friends with her spending frequent time at our home.
Even when Brian was not around she would stop by to spend time with me. Brian is not one for the orchestra or opera which both Liz and I absolutely adore. I found myself in a situation I could have never predicted as a gay man with no sexual interest in women, I was genuinely falling in love with her emotionally. While to this day we've never been sexually intimate, we are physically close. Imagine cuddling while watching a TV show, or sharing a bed and cuddling all night.
Obviously such an unorthodox relationship dynamic fit right in and seemed 'normal' in our own queer little neighborhood. Brian's parents were no longer in the picture as they had long since distanced themselves from his "deviant lifestyle choices" for being gay. My parents frequently visited but I felt that it was prudent to hide this further deviation from societal 'norms' from them. Liz was simply a close friend of ours in their view. Liz's parents however were/are your stereotypical "make peace and love not war" type of hippies. The first time we invited them over for dinner I answered the door and invited them in introducing myself and her mother says "so are you the gay one, or the bi one sticking it to my daughter?" LMAO.
We fell into a right sense of normality that just felt right. We were communicative and forthright about our wants and desires and quite frank. Dinner was family time, the time to communicate and openly express what was on our minds under the agreement of having it met with equal openness, honesty, and frankness without fear of retribution or hostility. While it wasn't always perfect and there was the occasional backlash, things went pretty smoothly for us.
During one particular Monday night dinner about a year after the two of them had graduated and gotten jobs in their respective fields, I declared quite frankly "I think we should have a child." Brian spit up a little wine and Liz met my declaration by screaming in the highest pitch I've ever heard her yell at "Are you f*cking insane?" (the dog ran from the dining room even). After some serious discussions over the next few months we determined that yes, we would like to have a child. Liz's concern was of the "unfairness" to me as predicated by my being gay in determining who the father would be. Without going into graphic details we settled on a way to eliminate this unfairness that she perceived and would not let go despite my reassurances to the contrary.
And before we knew it our lives were turned upside down by a screaming baby boy waking us up at all hours of the night. By now my family had gotten used to Liz being a part of Brian and my life. I can't imagine that they ever figured it out but if they did they sure brought their poker faces. When Liz came home with the baby my mother had taken it upon herself to get the nursery ready. Her and my father greeted us at the door and couldn't wait to see Liz's little baby. Neither of them knew that the three of us had decided to have a child together. When my mother took our son in her arms she looked at me with a face of shock. "Christ John, he looks ... he looks just like you." she looked at my father who then looked between Brian, Liz and I. I'm certain that's when they figured everything out.
Our lives were so much more rich than we could have ever imagined with our new son, and in a short amount of time he had a baby sister on the way compliments of Brian. During the third trimester of her second pregnancy Liz met another new expecting mother at the OB/GYN office. They quickly became friends. "Carol" was to be a single mother who was terrified and alone. Unfortunately her entrance into our life was also a great time of sadness for her when she lost her child during childbirth. As her friend Liz asked if she could stay with us as her parents had disowned her for having pre-marital sex. Though to clarify she was taken advantage of while intoxicated at a party.
We welcomed her into our home to help get her back on her feet. Liz established immediate report with her and it became apparent that the two were falling in love. And as they found love in each other both Brian and I came to love Carol as one of our own. She fit right in and was a perfect match for our dynamic. She came to find genuine peace in our home and our family and was just as good of a mother to our children as Liz.
Our children started growing up. Our son "David" (5 yrs now) had already established our familial titles daddy and papa for Brian and I, and mommy and mama for Liz and Carol respectively. Carol and Liz frequently took David and his sister "Morgan" to one of those "mommy and me" activity classes. David was quickly growing to be a curious and questioning little bugger like I had once been at his age. The catalyst for our next major family change came one night while we were watching a nature show about a pregnant elephant.
David turned from the TV and looked between Liz and Carol "mama, mommy, which one of you did I come out of?" The question took all of us by surprise and left me with palpitations and a dry mouth. Carol cleared her throat "Your mommy gave birth to you sweetheart." His face belied the gears rolling in his head "oh..." he paused contemplatively "...are you still my mama though?" we all nodded. It was just a quick few more questions before his resilient little mind wrapped itself around our rather complex family dynamic.
After the kids were put to bed we had a family meeting to lay everything out on the table. The discussion focused on Carol and how she felt being a part of the family. With some encouragement and recognition she admitted that she at times felt to be more of an outsider because us three were bonded by children. As inconceivable as it is to say or put into words Brian managed to sum up all of our feelings when he said "So what I'm taking away from this discussion is that as a whole all of us feel as though our family is too small for all this love we have?" Carol's emotional dam broken and we shared a good family cry together.
Carol and I developed a special relationship which at times surprised me. I found myself deciding she was in fact sexually appealing, and often times found the two of us physically intimate, but only rarely engaging in intercourse. usually when Brian and Liz were particularly heavy for each other leaving us seeking comfort in each other. As a family we decided it should be Carol and I to bring our next child into our lives. And another 19 months later our forth child, another son was born compliments of Brian this time.
Soon we came to realize that our family size perfectly fit our Love. Our children spent their formative years in a stable environment. Carol was a dedicated home maker and at times the glue that kept us from shattering into a hundred different directions. Three professional incomes under one roof made our financial situation so much more easier than those of our peers and coworkers. And the varying schedules ensured that there was always someone to take care of anything.
(yes there's more...)
As I said at the beginning our home was in a decidedly queer neighborhood and the local school had a particularly high rate of students with gay parents. Our children felt safe and confident and never showed any signs of stress regarding our family structure. We were active with the PTA, Carol and Liz frequently heard comments from other mothers along the lines of "how lucky they were" to have so much family under one roof. Of course it goes without saying, our life isn't all rose petals and daisies.
When the economy took a downturn Brian and Liz both lost their professional careers but were able to find replacement jobs. We felt extremely fortunate compared to those around us as we were not as burdoned with financial troubles as our peers. We had also managed to put away a sizeable chunk of change despite our relatively young age through our mutual appreciation of a minimalist lifestyle that can appear austere at times.
Brian soon got a job offer that was far too good to pass up even in a good economy. After many shed tears he left to persue that career and came back every other weekend. He soon brought word that he could get work for Liz as well if she wanted. I reassessed my career and the family decided it was time for a change. We found a beautiful house to call our home and made purchase. Brian, Liz and Carol moved into our new home with the three youngest while I and David (now in his freshman year of highschool) stayed behind to "close up shop and sell the house.
David was vehemently opposed to moving, he was afraid of losing all his friends and the prospect of having to make new ones. up until the rest of the family moved out it was frequently a cause of distress and outbursts. It was during the summer that we packed everything into a large U-Haul and our cars and moved almost everything in one go. David and I returned home in our car and prepared for the first week back to school and to sell the house. The first night back left me feeling a deep sense of being hollow. We ate in silence which was uncomfortably loud.
David quickly realized how much he missed his family and came around to the thought of moving away from his friends. We managed to sell the house and we made fast retreat back to our family. It's now been almost a three years since we've moved
Our children are amazingly brilliant and brave. They are proud of the family they live in and have no waver or hesistation when they introduce us as "these are my dads Brian and John" or "this is my other mom Liz". I attribute this to our open communication and frank discussion, and having spent a very good portion of their lives around "alternative non-nuclear families". The typical teen behaviors of inclusion and exclusion and clique formation are decidedly not how our kids "roll". David was furious that his new school here did not have a GSA club and formed one despite the flak he caught for it.
I should also mention that our household is devoutly buddhist. We practice the teachings of the Buddha sincerely and devotedly. We place strong value in the teaching to question all things we are told. To never accept something simply on the basis of authority. To investigate and reason on it of our own accord into the matter, to look objectively at all sides and to determine whether what we are told is true or not. I am sure this too plays a role in our children's apparent down-to-earth and accepting nature, along with giving david the strength to "buck the trend" and start the GSA which is going strong in his school.
All of this brings me to the crux of the matter that brings me here today. Our children grew up not only in an open and accepting household, but neighborhood and social structure. I am beginning to fear that this move was not for the best as it has caused much stress to our family. Once word got around that our family wasn't "normal" in the neigborhood many parents would let their kids come over to our house. Which is a complete reversal where there were pratically always neighbor kids overanytime we weren't having family dinner time. A few of the parents have even gone so far as to prohibit their kids from playing with ours. We are practically ignored and only painfully acknowledged at the monthly neighborhood parties. And what was a great source of reward and joy working with the PTA back home is now a source of scorn and contempt.
We feel like social outcasts. And I personally feel childish for beginning to believe that the world had changed for the better.
Our family is at an impasse. We have had a few explosive arguments and what used to bring about genuine progress and forward momentum in our family (the family meetings) is falling apart into contemptuous displays lacking any civility that we once had. David is graduating this year and has confided in me that he intends to move out and in his own words "go back home" I asked him why he didn't think of this as "home" with his family he just shook his head and said "look at us."
I feel as though we're being torn apart and there's nothing I can do to stop it. The logical reasoning side of me sees all of this as a result of the external societal pressures on us culminating as all this infighting. My suggestion, met with approval of Carol, to move ourselves back home is met with contempt from Liz and Brian as it would require they give up their new careers which are really starting to pick up momentum. I left my job on excellent terms and the owner would take me back in a heartbeat, along with our savings a move back would not prove financially ruinous.
We have tried counselling but it proved to be fruitless as we spent more time trying to educate the counsellors about our dynamic and how our family works than they did helping us work through it.
I'm at my wit's end. To me the situation is apparent.
Our family is falling apart. David only ever eats along in his room and he doesn't even eat what the family eats. He makes his own dinner and breakfast and locks himself in his room in the basement, and the second youngest frequently joins him (David is EXTREMELY protective of him). Our daughter has gone from a dress wearing blonde haird fashionista wanna-be to a black dyed hair, black eye shadow, goth fiend who only owns black clothes and underwear. (not that I'm judging it's her choice but it's a dramatic change for only three years of time)
I mean you only have to look at our deep freeze to see the difference. Where we once stocked up on steaks and hamburger and whole turkeys and chickens it's now filled to the brim with frozen dinners.
I'm not the only one saddened by our degradation, all of us parents obviously are as we all care for our family. But the strife is coming from the contrasting personal pride and prejudices and scornful feelings that were once resolved by communication now left to fester under the surface to rot our family from the inside out.
I don't know if any of you who read this far can have any hope of helping us. but it did help to relieve the pressure to vent. I just don't know what to do any more. Where I used to frequently turn down requests to stay late at work so I could get home to the family, I now frequently find myself sitting at my desk at work in a dark office staring out the window into oblivian.... only coming snapping back to reality when the cleaning crew knocks on my office door "hasta luego... lights?"
friendly ear here.....
[SIZE="2"]Thank you for the post tactical. I read the entire post and really enjoyed it. As entredeux stated, you all sound amazing and seem like a wonderful family. The love and joy in your family is great.
In reading, we can emotionally feel the current stress involved. Going through growing pains, individually and collectively is hard. Sorry, that you are going through it. Moving is a big change and you can only feel like "Who Moved My Cheese?" especially in an environment that is totally unlike what you are accustom and is not supportive of your family dynamic.
(Hope this does not read as elementary)
Few questions - just to think about that came to mind:
Are you doing the things you formally did with/within your family?
Did you formerly meditate together, your Buddhism, (or pray) in the past and no longer have that scheduled for the family or individually? Do yoga or walk in the park?
-When is the last time you and Liz have gone to the orchestra or opera together?
-Even though David is not eating dinner with the family, are all of the rest of you eating together anyway?
Have you created any new family rituals?
The song came to mind called "Come Back to the Middle". Which to me means to come back to where you started. That does not necessarily mean physical location however, but coming back to your connection.
IMHO, sometimes distance can makes the heart grow fonder. It can give you time to think, miss your mate(s) (emotionally and sexually) and you are usually very happy to see each other when you reconnect. If living in two cities for a while works for you all, why not?
If you all can, stop and remember why you feel in love in the first place (write them down if you haven't done so already). Yes, things are different now, (growth/growing pains?) but your love for one another and the commitment to your family is the same.
Please, don't let what is going on 'outside' of your family and with other people get you down (others peoples looks, thoughts, remarks, perspectives). Create your own "community". Find the people and places where "we" hang out and that can support you if you can.
If you can, keep us posted on how things work out.
Personally, wishing you all well and all the very best.
p.s. Hope to learn more from you as you share your wealth of experience and information.
All the best to you. Your family sounds amazing.
Maybe you could find some poly events or gatherings somewhere nearby to alleviate the feeling of exclusion?
And wow I'm so sorry for your situation, your neighbors sound like total assholes.
Is there no 'gay' neighborhood in your new town? Perhaps you don't have to go all the way back 'home,' but just to a new neighborhood in your new town.
Moving is hard and awful sometimes. I feel like I'm in another country where they share my money and speak my language, but another country, when I leave California.
I think you have an amazingly good perception, certainly a kind one. Have you checked out the resources here? I think there's a website somewhere that has referrals for poly-supportive counselors. [I went to counseling with my mom, once, after not talking to her for five years. I yelled at her and the counselor, reminding them that my history was not up for debate, and that we were in counseling to improve our relationship, and I wasn't going to spend my time defending my memories. I'm just saying, I can relate to not getting what you went to get.]
mega waves of loving-kindness in your direction <3
As a parent of teenagers, that alone can cause serious tension on any relationship. All those hormones and moods (and I only have 2 boys), Ughhhh!
First, I would suggest looking for a different counselor, one that doesn't need to be "educated", even if it means driving a ways. Second, maybe it's time to look for a different neighborhood, but still within commuting distance to everyone's current job. Not every neighborhood is the same and you definitely have crappy neighbors. Have the kids visit other schools and find the one they feel the most comfortable in, then find a home in that neighborhood.
What suggestions has Brian and Liz come up with or do they just get defensive when everyone else wants to throw in the towel and "go home"? It may appear to them that everyone else has already given up.
I truly have to say: thank you for sharing. A thousand times. This is part of what I dream for and I hope to achieve it someday.
Unfortunately you got the downside of things as well. And I feel pained that I am not able to help in the least, as I don't have children of my own. I would love to tell you that it can be due to a rebellious phase that your daughter changed her looks, because I believe that with that kind of secure and loving upbringing, the harm the new situation could have done to her, just has to be not as big as it could have been. But from your description it becomes apparent that you should remove all of you from this unhealthy situation. I like the suggestion of November Rain. Isn't it possible to relocate within the area of the new work of Brian and Liz?
I am kind of shocked that all that it took for such a stable and intact family like yours to yield and back down was social pressure from an unfriendly neighbourhood. (And I can imagine what kind of neighbourhood you moved to ...) You fuel my fear of coming out to ours.
Thanks for telling us about your life, I am sorry that I can't help with further suggestions. I will hope for the best for all of you. Phy
Thanks so very much for sharing your story with us. You have encouraged us in our foray into the poly world!
Pressure from within and without, sadly we would suggest ignoring what those in your surrounding community think but that's impossible with young minds to protect. The issues which seem to be the most divisive sounds simply like stubbornness, many people equate success in life with their careers. While obtaining much success and satisfaction at work their home life suffers, this is sadly prevalent in mono relationships too and the cause of much unnecessary divorce! Finding a "poly friendly" counselor would be a good start, no "move" will be possible while anyone has their heels dug in so helping everyone to understand what the cost of their success really is!
We wish we could offer more, something as beautiful as what you have shouldn't be allowed to flounder helplessly into failure!!! If venting helps maybe having the rest of your family read this will also help...it seems that we don't always listen with our ears!!!
Not that this alleviates the stress of being ostracized, but bigotry can be brought to bear on almost anyone due to not only sexual orientation or family configuration, but also religion, ethnicity, etc.
I get that you're worried about your children, but I wonder how many children in your kids' school are being ostracized for one of the other reasons mentioned above (or some other)? None of this is right, and it's wonderful that you did not have to deal with it in your previous neighborhood, but it seems to me that you are severely limiting yourselves and your children if you cannot learn how to cope with the assholes of the world.
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