June 10, 2014 by aggiesez
Today in the Singleish and Solo Polyamory Facebook group, I commented on a thread exploring the different ways that solo poly people preserve autonomy or avoid too much enmeshment while also maintaining relationships. Some people dislike it when a lover even leaves a toothbrush at their place; others have different boundaries.
Here’s how I explained my approach to autonomy and connectedness in my life, relationships and home:
To me, although I adore living solo, I also treasure ongoing, ambient connection with the people I love. I prefer to feel their presence in my life, as well as in my heart. Just lightly enough so I don’t feel smothered or hobbled.
When I’m in significant relationships, typically I enjoy daily or near-daily contact of some kind with my lovers. But this adopts various forms and pacing, depending on our respective communication availability and preferences. This is where asynchronous communication, supported by technology, is a huge boon to me — I’m really not much for talking on the phone.
To me, ongoing ambient contact of some kind with my lovers fosters intimacy and understanding, and provides a sense of connection and stability in my relationships that I value.
With my current lover, we don’t get to spend much time together — but we do communicate quite often, usually a few times daily in different ways. Sometimes we send long, deep e-mails exploring issues and feelings, exchanging intimacies or sharing insights and experiences. Sometimes it’s quick text banter or photos.
This is a fairly new relationship, we’re both experiencing pretty significant NRE (new relationship energy), so our communication has been pretty intense. (It’s so refreshing and exciting for me to be exploring an intimate relationship with a fellow writer!) However, our communication is now starting to settle into calmer patterns and rhythms — which I also enjoy. But I value having those intense initial e-mails to look back on.
With my most recent previous lover, we’d mostly text silly internet meme photos to each other a few times daily. Which was sweet and fun. We still do that sometimes, even though we’re no longer dating. Never underestimate the value of simply sharing smiles with people you care about.
Here are the kinds of enmeshment I personally prefer to avoid:
- Logistical dependence. Sharing a home and finances, relying on each other for transportation or other daily needs, etc.
- Social dependence. A strong need to interact socially mostly “as a couple.”
- Emotional dependence. When lovers become too emotionally dependent on me — they don’t have their own friends, expect me to manage their emotions for them, etc.
- Interpersonal territoriality. Expectations that we somehow own or are entitled to control aspects of each other, or at least have the power to grant permission for sharing. This most often comes into play with forming new relationships and sharing sex or other types of intimacy in various contexts. Or feeling entitled to a certain amount of your partner’s time, energy or attention.
Those types of enmeshment tend to bring out unpleasant aspects of my personality: control freakishness, hyperresponsibility, rebelliousness, anxiety and more.
Above all, when I’ve been thus enmeshed, my decisions about relationships often had more to do with maintaining life stability than with the quality of the relationship, or taking care of myself. In the past — when I’ve felt that leaving a relationship would entail substantial disruption to my housing, finances, or social network — I’ve made stunningly bad relationship decisions.
I love having my own space, and I don’t mind sharing it in small ways. Now that I’m no longer dwelling in a tiny apartment, I’m fine when lovers and friends who occasionally spend a night or a few days with me choose to leave a few basics behind — toothbrush, spare clothes, favorite snack, etc. I have convenient places to store their stuff, so it doesn’t impinge on my space.
I also enjoy seeing in my home gifts from my lovers, friends and family. My current lover recently went traveling, and brought me back a beautiful silk scarf. I’ve draped that over a corner of my bedroom mirror. It looks lovely there, and it’s a daily reminder of the bond we share.
What about you? If you’re solo poly, how do you balance connection and autonomy, or avoid too much enmeshment, in your own relationships? Please comment below.