“But how can I be polyamorous if I’m not sure I’m even human anymore?” The thought that has ravaged its way through my mind many times in the past four years.
Homelessness; being homeless, at risk of homelessness or having a perceptibly risky housing situation can be the most disorienting of things to experience. We put so much stock in our homes as North Americans without fully realizing that safe housing is such a privilege: it is the place we keep our belongings and selves warm, safe and dry… it is the place where we sleep and return to for eating and receiving guests if we are the type to have guests at home. Having a housing situation not to our choosing feels like the worst place to try to be polyamorous from. But I believe being actively homeless is worse.
And yet for a while. Try I did. The results weren’t really very spectacular. Mostly as my housing situations became more precarious, people saw this and realized I was not in a stable place to be conducting a relationship at that time. Luckily the people I’m drawn to are at least as perceptive as me and were very good at self selecting themselves out of my life.
When our housing situation is risky, it becomes hard for stable people to connect with us authentically without worrying that we will end up asking to borrow money or stay with them.
Sometimes we end up not being able to live up to our own self standards for how we want to act and behave- this is SUPREMELY disorienting because we have an idea of ourselves and we have an idea of what makes us good people and we try to fulfill those things so that we may remain to feel ourselves “good people”. Except that when we are in extreme need, what good people do is not always possible: paying rent on time, contributing equally to household food stores, maintaining a stable and healthy emotional outlook, attendance at important events… all these things can go right out the window and with them our perception of ourselves as “good people”. Sometimes the perception of us as “good people” from those closest to us goes out the window too. This happens when our boundaries are not sustainable with people and I feel that times of high need force us to ask for increased levels of support from those around us to keep us going at the level we have been.
I’m going to liken suddenly changing the level of support you have been receiving from someone or giving them to a crossed boundary. Often times support given and received is not something that gets intentionally negotiated, I believe this sets us up for misery. People want to help the ones they love but not understanding how much help the help given will be and how much is needed and whether or not the help that was given is sustainable or not… its a recipe for disaster.
Everyone can handle a crossed boundary for a short period of time. Usually when they are very aware, they can come to us to explain why they tolerated a crossed boundary in the moment but that they would prefer not to in the future so that we can better respect them. Sometimes they are not able to do this. It isn’t really all their fault. We bear some responsibility for putting them in a situation where they needed to rectify a boundary issue we have stumbled on… and I’ll explain with a personal example.
For a long time, living in the city centers that I was living in… in order to take part in the lives of others, I had to be able to attend at least a couple free or close to free events in town. Getting to those events became increasingly hard for me. When I ceased to be able to see the people I considered my community at the events… for them to be a part of my life they had to do the extra work of meeting me where I was. These are people who barely had a handle on keeping themselves afloat where they were… and I was sinking.
I put myself in a variety of unsustainable situations that were personally damaging to me and everyone around me. When you get a roommate you expect them to be able to pay their rent on time. The first few times it wasn’t a problem but it became one. From there I moved into a friend’s tent camper and watched their kids for always more than we’d agreed upon and never more money than we agreed upon… some of which I was paying for room and board.
Once I was there, I was still trying to date but ever more unsuccessful as the people I like most kept self selecting themselves out of my life with their wonderful boundary skills. It hurt. It changed me. The idea that I might be very tempting to a person but that they are right to understand that we could not be together because they would always feel used and I would always feel resented…
After that I bounced around between being carless in a remote outlying community from one of the smallest cities on my island with my mother and a out of province live-where-you-work situation where the goods were odd and the odds were good… that you develop a drug problem and or get denied your bonus on some bullshit basis fabricated by the upper management who surely directly benefits by denying you your bonus. Now I’m living with a friend on a conditional basis that is easy to fulfill and I know that I am safe here to hopefully get back on my feet.
But even still at the very best place I could possibly be to reinstigate attempts to look for love… largely I stopped trying to be polyamorous- or even a person that looks for relationships. I am still so overwhelmingly hurt by the withdrawl of … belief in me. People turned their faces from me. Lots of them. For lots of reasons, if only to avoid seeing me suffer. Some of those people had justifiable reasons and I’ll never blame them. … but really how could I blame ANYONE for seeing a minefield of need and quietly telling one’s self that they had not the resources to deal with that…? And more to the point. Many people have NOT turned away from me. Many people have kept strong boundaries to meet me where I am and connect with me there. To love me despite my troubles. I am always going to be so grateful to them.
Some leading questions:
- What are our needs? Are we able to fulfill our needs on our own or do we need help? Which needs do we fill on our own and which do we seek help with?
- Are we able to connect with the people we want to connect with on our own? How much work does someone else have to put into meeting us where we are?
- What is support to us? Is it tangible support? Like a hug or a person suggesting us for a job we need? Is it intangible like caring for us and showing us that someone loves us? Or is it a mix of intangible/tangible such as a good opinion of us that is shared with others?
- Is the support we need reasonable to expect from someone? This doesn’t mean that the support we need won’t come… but is it really reasonable to ask for the things we find ourselves needing from friends and not family in the culture we live in?
- Is the support we are being given from someone sustainable for them to be giving? If we end up needing it longer than they can give it are they going to burn out?
- Is this person worth losing if we burn them out supporting us?
- How do we ask for support without making people think we are asking for HELP?
- In this I define support as intangible and help as tangible support. Support is inviting you over for tea to be a calm ear to vent crazy things and be reassured they are crazy. Help is letting someone live in your house.
- If we are dependent on someone’s assistance, our way of life is predicated on their assistance. Then our standard of living is contingent on the relationship we have with them.
- I feel this sets us up to be put in abusive or to put others in abusive situations.
To me, if I am not self sufficient my relationship with someone else is by necessity an unequal affair. And I’m not comfortable there. And so I must be self sufficient before I do polyamory again. But I’m so stinking lonely and tired of being ‘strong’. I feel weak.
A situation that I’ve not really been in for the past long history of my not wanting to cohabitate with partners is the idea that you become trapped in a relationship because you have no where else to live. And that if you find yourself in a situation where your living situation is shared with your romantic partners or potential romantic partners it can be harder to solidify that situation or leave it.
In this way, the inversion of couple privilege… and I’m going to have to write a post on this. It’s a big issue.