Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sometimes, the "Why" Does Matter (Or, Really Bad Motorcycle Analogies)

Occasionally, I run across the occasional thread online that goes something like this:

Worried partner of a Poly person looks for reassurance when their partner is out on a date / overnight / away for a weekend / trip / whatever

Poly person responding asks, "Why is it any different from your partner being away for business?"

Worried partner either has no words to describe why, or states that they fear that their partner being away with someone else will hurt their relationship.

And not much happens after that, other than a discussion from like-minded people that this absence is no different from any other, maybe some advice to the worried partner about how to spend their time, but nothing that really addresses the underlying issue (but thanks, though, to the folks who offer advice).

So, here's where my unholy love of bad analogies comes in. Let me tell you a story...

My ex-husband didn't like motorcycles. His dad rode one. His mom's boyfriend rode one. His mom even got her license but didn't feel comfortable on one, even after her trip to Sturgis with her boyfriend. He remained absolute in his conviction that riding a motorcycle was RISKY BEHAVIOR. He and I saw his mom's boyfriend go through surgery to correct a leg injury that happened when he hit sand at an offramp and went down, hard. He saw his dad (and uncle and others) "walking funny" and believed that it was all because riding a motorcycle made you more prone to injury, and why on earth would any responsible human being put themselves at risk like that? At one point, when we were still dating, he had me promise him that I would never get on a motorcycle (and yes, I made that promise, because it was clearly far less important to me than it was to him, so sure... no skin off my back).

I, on the other hand, believe that different people have different levels of acceptable risk. For every idiot riding his speed machine in between lanes on the highway at a buck-twenty in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, there are many, many other riders who wear the proper gear, watch the other drivers like a hawk, and generally take as much caution as they can when they ride.

Why do they ride? I'm sure there are many answers, but for some, it's the feeling of freedom - feeling the sun on your face, being surrounded by nothing but open sky. For others, it's the idea of having a summer vehicle that gets far better mileage than a minivan (okay, so I may be biased here). For others, it may be the sense of community they feel as a rider.

So let's say I really, really decided I wanted to ride a motorcycle while I was still married to my ex. I yearned for the freedom of the road. I went to get my licence, bought a motorcycle, started talking to other enthusiasts, but only noodled around town because my husband was anxious about it... until I decided I really, really wanted to go on a road trip.

For someone like my ex, this would be far, FAR different from taking the same trip in a car. This would have been MUCH more dangerous, since I would be much more vulnerable on a bike. He may grow to resent the people I hung out with, thinking that they were putting him down as a stick in the mud, and encouraging me to just up and go, and that he'd just need to deal with it. And, to be honest, maybe some of them would have, although I'm sure some in the community would have their own advice to give.

To many people who've had their relationships open up, polyamory is just as scary and potentially dangerous. It's not a danger to your life, but a danger to the relationship. Instead of nice, safe monogamy, their partner is playing with fire by getting involved with other people, and we saw how that worked out for Judy and Steve when Steve was cheating on her with that hussy from work... How could my partner not see that? Even worse, how could they want that when they know this is risky to our relationship? How could they want that when they know how much I worry? Why would they put me through that?

Do I have an answer? No. And I wouldn't advocate that you listen to me anyway. This blog is just trying to bridge the communication gap... it's up to you to actually do the communicating.

Sometimes, the motorcyclist just really, really needs that feeling of freedom (full poly). Sometimes, they can compromise and just ride around town (maybe open, with some rules attached). Sometimes, they are willing to just set that aside because it really wasn't that important to them anyway (stay in a monogamous relationship). Sometimes, the worried partner can go get a license of their own, realize they like it, and go riding themselves (try and enjoy poly). They can accept their differences, worry but talk about it, and give their partner space to ride (many mono/poly relationships), or they can say, "If you keep riding, I won't be able to handle it," and a decision will have to be made. Nothing's etched in stone, but it's far more complex than, "isn't it the same thing as a business trip?"

In the end, no. It's not.
Sometimes the reason for the thing is the problem, and not the thing itself.

And yes, now that I'm free of that promise, I hope to take the motorcycle class next year, when I can afford a bike. And no, that wasn't a metaphor. :-)