Going home for the holidays inevitably means that J and I will find similarity and difference with each of our families. But it seems even more happened this past week/weekend.
Last week, J and I visited with two of J’s friends. One, a long-time friend (woman), and the other an ex-girlfriend-now-friend. J’s mom seriously does not understand how this is okay with me. The truth is, I enjoy both of these people’s company a ton, and love socializing with both. It so happened that the night that J and I saw his ex-girlfriend he and I later had a heated conversation about something totally unrelated and I ended up crying myself to sleep. We are assuming that J’s mom heard me crying, and linked the two situations. She sent J an email early the next morning explaining in extremely vague terms that she was upset, and hadn’t been excited about our wedding since we started planning it. She did not say why she was upset, did not say what she needed, etc. It was a prime example of communication lacking meta-communication and specifics. J told her that same day that she could come talk to both of us, but she never did.
The email colored our whole time at home with J’s family, because J and I talked a ton about the possibility of our conversation with her evolving into a “coming out” conversation. In thinking about coming out to J’s parents, it became quite apparent that we would have to approach the topic as a more “closed” idea on our end; that is, that we would not be looking for input or advice. However, we would definitely have to approach in a more conversational way, and not like a confrontation (despite having some intuition that it would likely devolve into one). The topic would need to be gentle and compassionate. We would need to feel open to answering questions and providing explanation, but also recognize our capacity for hearing negative comments.
We are both so thankful for the relationship that we do have with J’s brother and sister-in-law. They know about everything, and can talk to us in a very honest and real way about all of this. Thank goodness they were also home and were able to listen to us, relate to us, and provide feedback on the situation. It was a good reminder that it is very possible to have positive and deep relationships with family members.
In one of the conversations J and I had, we talked a lot about how much of what we appreciate about our open relationship are “smaller” things, that perhaps some (or many) monogamous couples have as part of their relationship: having opposite sex friends, having emotional intimacy with friends, the ability to flirt as part of a natural expression of relating to others. It is quite clear from the email J received that having emotional intimacy with opposite-sex friends is not okay in J’s parents monogamous relationship, let alone flirting. I am deeply grateful for these “smaller” aspects that we can enjoy; they are very important to both of us. And it actually provides me comfort, in knowing that those things were not okay when we were monogamous. It is just a slow process to become accustomed to things and unlearn old and re-learn new ways of relating.
J’s mom’s un-excitement about our wedding, we are fairly sure, is related to the fact that neither of us wants kids. It seems that J’s mom sees this as meaning that J and I are not with the right people; i.e., if we were with the “right” person, we would want kids. So because we don’t, we clearly aren’t in the “right” relationship, and therefore, a wedding is stupid. How could she be excited for it if she sees our relationship as doomed?
I now have this to let go of. Letting go of having J’s mom as a true source of emotional support for our relationship, even one that she perceives to be monogamous. Letting go of having a more authentic and deep relationship with J’s parents. Letting go of having my true self seen by family members. Letting go, letting go, letting go. Make peace, make peace, make peace.