What's in a name? Or a label? Or a role? Or a word? It's just semantics, right?
Some labels, I choose not to worry about, or don't really feel the need to identify with.
The "demisexual" thing. That's recent. It's interesting, and it explains why I feel the way I do about people and relationships pretty well. But I don't need to identify as such.
The whole Mono versus Poly thing. I identify as Mono, but what the hell does that mean? I see Poly folks on the board who enjoy multiple casual (but loving) relationships, and identify as Poly. I see others who eschew casual relationships and go for more of a Poly Family model. Myself? I identify (strongly) as Mono, but in a way that I think isn't quite the way everyone else does. I could see myself being able to sustain multiple casual relationships. I do not see myself sustaining multiple life-partner relationships. I want one partner and one only. The whole "pendulum" model of love. If I love less intensely, I could probably spread it out. I just don't want to. The pendulum swings strongly in the direction of my partner, and if I were to have more relationships, it'd pull somewhere in the middle and I'd be unable to have that intensity with him.
So, despite the realization that I could probably carry off multiple relationships, they're not the type of relationship I primarily want, thus the self-identification as "mono". If I want a partnership (which I do), then I only want one. What complicates things a bit is a girl-crush on an old friend of mine. I could certainly see myself adding the "benefits" part of the "FWB" moniker to our friendship, but I also don't see it changing the relationship into anything different than it is. I'll still be a friendship. So... I dunno. I still identify as mono, but maybe "mono-ish" would be more accurate. Shrug.
The term "partner"... Now that's an interesting label, and one I never really thought much about until recently. Like I said above, I *do* want a partner. While I value my independence, I still want one very close person to share my life with. But what does "share my life with" mean? In a mono relationship, you don't have to break down that statement at all. In a poly one (well, in THIS poly one), it seems that EVERY term gets tossed on end, examined, flipped that way, re-examined, and then cut apart and dissected to really get at the meat of it, and I find myself doing that here (I still need to do that with "veto" but that's more of an intellectual discussion among the three of us, I think).
I've already compromised on a few things I used to consider part and parcel of being a "partner" - marriage, having someone to come home to every night, sharing finances and assets. Some of it (the shared finances/assets part), I'm happy to give up. Some of it (the "coming home to someone every night" part), I'm not all that happy about giving up. Marriage itself, I've found, I'm kind of neutral about. I don't need the certificate, and I don't feel the state should really give a rat's ass, so whatever. The tax breaks are nice, but it's not a draw for me.
The distinction between "partner" and "boyfriend" does come up from time to time. When I got my house, and was trying to make it MY home with my kids (because I felt the kids needed to feel it was their home with me after the divorce, and I shouldn't complicate things at first), P felt left out - was he "partner" or "BF"? (Not so much an issue anymore, as he does feel vested in this home... hell, he has a half-assembled tractor in the garage!)
The extra bedroom in his home with M1... he felt it was our space - our sanctuary in that home there, to be just ours. Our retreat when it was our night but we needed to be in that area for some reason. I thought of it as a place to stay when I was there, but still feel it's THEIR home. I think that pushed at his partner/BF boundary as well. Made it feel like I was visiting my BF rather than being with my partner. (Probably one of HIS compromises, as it's a bit too "poly family" for me to want to stay there with any regularity, plus the logistics are tougher for me)
The family time - that's still an ongoing project, trying to get more time with P and his family... that's part and parcel of feeling like a partner on my end.
So now I'm in a new "partner/BF" quandry of my own.
I guess it isn't new... it's come up over and over again when I'm struggling with something: the home improvement projects, the mold in the basement, the leaky bulkhead, the wood stove. I thought it was simply feeling overwhelmed when I don't know how to handle something. Wanting him to be there to help. Thinking that a partner should be able to be counted on in those moments. And that led to some discussions about independence (which I DO want, and value - I WANT to learn the nuances of that wood stove, dammit... I DO want to be proficient with a hammer and say that I can take on <x> project myself), and he doesn't want to jump in and rescue me.
It still felt unresolved, though. I don't want to be rescued, but what the hell is it that I WANT? What the hell do I feel is missing? I couldn't articulate it.
Yesterday, we got hit with about 8-10 inches of heavy snow. Not all that out of the ordinary for a snowstorm, but it was a weekend where he was with M1, they didn't get much snow, and without a working tractor (and no snowblower, either), I was outside with a long driveway, a shovel, and two kids that helped for a little while but got cold and hungry and couldn't get restarted after lunch.
So while I was shoveling snow (and lamenting the fact that without help, I wasn't going to be dug out until dark), I realized that THIS is part of what I want out of a partner. Someone to share the burden with. Sharing my life with someone also means sharing burdens with them - it's a two-way street. Except, I feel that I can't count on him to be there for that. The day to day burdens? He's only with me half-time, and if it's not an emergency (snow isn't an emergency - I grew up in New England and if it's 18+ inches, then MAYBE I will concede on using the "E" word), I can't call on him to be there with me for them. I can't count on him to be there to share the load.
And that really impacted me, emotionally. THAT is part of a partnership for me, and I don't have that all the time. I have it when he's physically there, but not when he's with M1.
It came up again recently when I was busy as hell with work, and we missed our normal opportunity to talk on the phone about our days. I felt like I couldn't talk about my day afterward without taking time away from him and M1, and I felt pushed off about talking until we could be physically together (which wasn't his intent). Just talking about our days, sharing our burdens that way, is important to me, but to respect his time with M1, I feel like I can't really talk to him except during the times we've carved out, and when we miss those opportunities, I feel that they've been missed. Period.
If it were a job that took him away? Well... it's easy to think that they'd still rather be with you, but they have to eat, you know? So the job is a necessary evil. And it's much easier to vilify something that's inanimate.
But it's not a job. It's his choice to spend half his time with M1 and half of it with me, and that makes it harder, emotionally, knowing he chooses to spend time away. Plus, I can't even cuss out a job under my breath. It ends up being me cussing out M1 under my breath, and that leads to resentment. P's not here to share my load and it's YOUR FAULT. Yeah, great. A couple steps backward, there.
(And I know it's not her fault. It's his choice to be in this type of relationship with both of us, and it's my choice to be here as well... boy, is it easy to point the finger of blame, though, when the emotions are running high.)
Doesn't help that his lack of time with me means the tractor isn't fixed yet.
So what the hell do I do about it?
How I've dealt with it in the past is to detach emotionally from him when he's not here and I need to hunker down and do something. Becoming MADAM INDEPENDENCE (cue theme music) and not needing P around. Except, that really puts me in a frame of mind that really does distance me from him, and it takes some work to open up and be close to him again. I hate doing it, and I try to not do it unless I have to. But if I don't do it during those times, I want him here to help, and I get wrapped around the axle when he's not.
Do I ratchet us down from 'partners' to something else in my head?
Then see my above mono/poly thing... I'll effectively be taking him out of my heart as my partner if I do that, and my relationship with him will be... what? Will it EFFECTIVELY change? Probably not right away. Will it emotionally change for me? Definitely. Why? Because I want that partner. I want to share my life, my load (and their load!) with someone. And if I make the conscious effort to say that this isn't what I have, then I will probably eventually go looking, and that WILL change our relationship, our intimacy level.
Or do I rewicker that definition of 'partner' again for myself?
Feels like yet another compromise, but if this is going to work, it may be what I have to do.
No. Let me rephrase that.
If I want this to continue as a partnership, given the circumstances, then it will be what I have to do.
My choice, I suppose. Let's own this bad boy.
But how much do I change the definition of 'partner' before it loses meaning for me? Before I start looking for a partner the way I used to define it, and stop thinking of this as a partnership altogether? Before I realize that I was lying to myself with whatever that previous change in definition was?
I guess that remains unanswered right now.
I keep bending the definition, and I'm not sure where it's going to break.
Here's hoping I recognize it when/if it does.